Innovation Leadership during Economic Downturn

6 April 2020

On Friday the 3rd of April, we hosted a free webinar that discussed how to show innovation leadership during an economic downturn. Precautions taken as a result to combat corona has led to an immense impact on businesses in the Netherlands. To support innovation professionals in their efforts and role to keep innovating and to maintain (and if possible leverage and strengthen) their innovation capability within their organisation, insights, suggestions and a framework to structure thinking and actions for innovation excellence were provided. Programme director of the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship and innovation expert Dr. Ferdinand Jaspers hosted the webinar and shared his key takeaways  for innovation professionals.

1. Focus on long term innovation
Looking at the four years following the 2001/2002 crisis, research shows that companies that stick to innovation outperform companies in the long term that do not invest in innovation (Jansen & Mom, Rotterdam School of Management). However, many innovation teams or professionals will now find themselves working inside the core to do some necessary operational activities. But there might be some other possibilities for you to take, because in times of crisis existing companies have to urgently renew their business models. For example because traditional channels don’t work and companies have to shift their activities to an online environment. This calls for an urgent need for innovation and a perfect time for you as innovation professional to flourish in building a future-proof organisation.

2. Financials for innovation under pressure
Next to supporting the core, innovation professionals and teams have their ongoing innovation projects and activities. But many of you may experience that budgets for innovation are under pressure or maybe even cut. If your organisation is really serious about being an innovative company, then this is the time for you to make sure to sustain that effort. To do so, you have to possibly reallocate your resources across projects, like pausing the expensive, and suddenly more risky, scale-up activities. But at the same time try to step up existing discovery and incubation activities to explore new opportunities and build new networks to refocus your innovation activities. This way, you have a richer portfolio ready once the crisis will diminish.

3. Finding new ways of working
As innovation professionals, your leadership style in times of a crisis can make a big difference. Research conducted by Prof. dr. Daan Stam suggests that leaders will receive more support for their plans and new initiatives if their communication style is very positive and focused on all the great possibilities that lie within in the future. If there is anyone in the organisation who is typically positive about the future in the mid- and the long-term and has this bright vision, then it is you as an innovation professional. You are working on the future, day in and day out, so take this moment to help yourself, your team and senior leaders to adapt an appropriate communication style. Spread the positive story to all stakeholders, in which you see and take the opportunities that exist because of this crisis instead of focusing on the negative consequences.

Curious? Watch the complete webinar recording here.

Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing more insights on a variety of innovation and leadership topics, via blogs and webinars, all focused on practical skills and tools that help you lead innovation excellence in uncertain times like these. Keep an eye on this webpage to stay tuned.

The next webinar “How to create new business opportunities during the coronavirus downturn: insights & inspiration“ will take place on April 10 at 10:00 AM. Are you interested to join? Send an e-mail to The maximum number of participants is limited to 30 for this webinar to ensure a highly interactive environment.

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