Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Catalyst for Creativity

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” - Machiavelli

As a proclaimed crackberry user (sorry, is that so 2005 to say now?), I look at my phone quite frequently. And what I’ve been noticing for the past 6 months is the frequency of WSJ updates I get that are quite simply put, scary.

“White House to Provide up to $5 Billion in Financing to Auto-Parts Suppliers”

“FedEx Plans More Job Cuts After Posting 75% Drop in Profit”

The list goes on and on. We all know. We live with this every day. And so while it is clear the economy is falling to bits, with huge brand names dive bombing all around us, everyday, Circuit City, AIG, Linens ‘n Things, Bennigans, this massive shake out can’t be all negative. There must be some possibilities for a silver lining? Thankfully, there probably are…

The WSJ article "How to Innovate in a Downturn" details with historical evidence some of this wishful thinking. The article describes that in times of downturn, when the natural inclination is to “hunker down” and merely try to “follow the status quo, and just try to survive in hopes that some day, this, too, shall pass” ...this is actually “the wrong prescription." It explains that "now more than ever is the time for innovative managers and entrepreneurs to come up with ideas that lead to opportunities to launch new ventures. There is considerable anecdotal evidence that crises can be catalysts for creativity.” It highlights how shortly after 9/11 the iPod was launched, and during the Great Depression “some contrarians pressed ahead with innovation, including DuPont with its investments in neoprene and nylon."

Of course this entirely depends on your industry/situation. But for companies that have a chance, "in difficulty, lies opportunity" (one of my favorite quotes by Einstein).

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