6 minute read 14 Dec 2020
Two longboarders chasing on road

How the accelerating pace of innovation demands boldness and speed

By Woodruff (Woody) Driggs

EY Americas Consulting Digital Transformation Wavespace Leader

Digital transformation wavespace leader helping EY clients re-imagine their future so they can thrive in the transformative age.

6 minute read 14 Dec 2020
Related topics EY wavespace™ Digital

The scale of innovation is escalating. As companies shift gears from incremental change to full throttle, a blend of talent is critical.

In brief
  • Companies are telling us that the pace and scale of how they innovate must change – from incremental to reimagining the very core of the business.
  • It can be difficult to scale innovation: barriers include lack of alignment to company purpose, short-term funding and integrating the new innovation.
  • The last few months have proven what’s possible – the challenge now is to both reimagine the future and realize it.

Any businesses speeding along the path of digital transformation before the Covid-19 pandemic have benefitted from their forethought and investment. Those that responded by putting their foot down on the accelerator have been rewarded despite very difficult times. Businesses selling directly to consumers have seen the adoption of direct-to-consumer services leap forward as much as five years in just six short months, one example being the uptick in telemedicine - expected to reach one billion virtual visits by the years's end.

The impact of digital channels, remote working and reimagined supply chains has changed the question from “What can I digitize next?” to “How quickly can I transform the business so it’s  agile, resilient and ready for the next round of disruption and change?”

Insights from how we’re responding at EY

At EY, we know from experience how challenging end-to-end transformations are. We work with clients navigating this new terrain every day and, as one would imagine, we’re doing our own pivoting and accelerating.

Since the onset of Covid-19, we’ve changed the way we innovate with clients in two ways: making EY wavespaceTM 100% virtual; and working with clients adapting to dynamic markets as a way of life versus a one-time challenge.  

For example, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused most organizations to re-evaluate how they use their real estate. Looking at this through the lens of now, next and beyond:

  • Now: To meet current requirements, all open-plan offices must be adapted to meet public health guidance and protect employees.
  • Next: Some companies have already announced permanent remote working; others have put summer 2021 as the earliest return to the office. Organizations are asking: which employees are coming back and how? The virtualization of office workers and virtualization of work in general has risen to the top of the agenda.
  • Beyond: Organizations are completely rethinking their real estate portfolios. Where do they need to be, and how can they configure it in creative, flexible ways to support collaboration? 

To address these questions, companies need to create new products and services at a faster pace than the past, strengthen capabilities and leverage technology and alliance relationships. The EY organization is on this same journey.

New product, technology and business innovation in one place

Clients are telling us that the pace, scale and nature of how they innovate must change. Until now, many companies have relied on incremental innovation to keep pace with changing customer needs, with acquisitions filling in critical gaps.

Clients are telling us that the pace, scale and nature of how they innovate must change.

Today, companies must reimagine the very core of their business, which requires a more disruptive approach. What’s more, the high cost of technology and data-based acquisitions means that companies must do it organically or by collaborating across their ecosystems.

Getting that done requires a broad range of capabilities: strategists, customer researchers, product and development specialists, technologists, customer/user experience developers, data scientists and engineers, compliance, finance, legal, marketing, sales, customer service – the list goes on.

Convening and mobilizing these different disciplines and talent is a key challenge. EY teams have used wavespace for just this purpose, combining design thinking, leadership alignment and proven methodologies to keep teams on track and take great creative leaps forward. We are working with industries as diverse as telecommunications, healthcare and consumer products to co-create new products and services, establish strong governance, and maintain the team’s energy and momentum. 

Three common barriers to scaling innovation

In my experience, three of the most common stumbling blocks to scaling disruptive innovation are:

  • Originating: If innovation projects are defined too narrowly or fail to meet the company’s remit, people will struggle to see the connection and why they should make the effort. For innovation to work, you need energized people ready to tackle the status quo. Projects that fall outside the organization’s purpose dilute the focus. Ensure innovation projects are aligned to the company’s purpose and vision.

If innovation projects are defined too narrowly or fail to meet the company’s remit, people will struggle to see the connection and why they should make the effort.

  • Funding: Disruptive innovation requires longer term investment cycles, often five to 10 years. This typically exceeds the term of office for leaders and board members, in addition to the economic cycles of downturns and disruptions. Step two is to establish a mindset that is focused on the long game, with sustained entrepreneurial leadership, proper metrics and transparent reporting.

  • Integrating: Where do you house new innovations that are successful? This is slightly easier for projects, which can be “nested,” as one recent client described it, into the core business to create a sustainable future. Even then, these businesses are likely to be very different in nature and risk rejection by the core business. For more disruptive innovations that replace the core of the business, this is a more complex question, and it’s a matter of co-existing and transitioning, rather than nesting. Whichever form it takes, clear communication and change management is essential. 

From reimagine to realize

One of the most positive things about recent times is how innovation is accelerating. At the start of the calendar year, it would have been hard to imagine how well virtual collaboration would work. I’m talking with business leaders who are saying, “We’ve done things that were hardly imaginable this time last year.” This is innovation in action.

Personally, the best part of my job has always been helping clients to reimagine their business. I’m excited that we’re doing this in new ways, helping companies to reimagine and realize a bold future.

Summary

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, innovation continues to flourish. Though scaling innovation can be difficult, working across a range of disciplines with energized, motivated teams makes all the difference. To avoid common barriers to success, ensure innovation projects are aligned to company purpose, secure sustainable funding and integrate the new innovation into the right part of the business.

About this article

By Woodruff (Woody) Driggs

EY Americas Consulting Digital Transformation Wavespace Leader

Digital transformation wavespace leader helping EY clients re-imagine their future so they can thrive in the transformative age.

Related topics EY wavespace™ Digital