One of the most pressing questions that we encounter in our work are related to the how: How to do this? How do I start? How do we become more creative? How do I solve this problem? How can I adapt my current business model? The proposed framework described in this paper aims at answering these questions that are particularly important in times of crisis.
We want to inspire the readers to apply this framework to develop and design their individual solution space. Adapt the framework in order to increase its value in your specific situation or the intended application. By sharing our experience and understanding of innovation management during the current crisis we hope to provide a systematic and quick approach that enables organizations to develop innovative solutions in these difficult times.
Ever since the Corona virus started infecting the world, the value of innovative and creative thinking has soared. The development of new designs for low-cost respirators and face masks are two prominent examples. What makes them remarkable and inspiring is, that the limitations caused by the pandemic triggered outside the box thinking. The pandemic has severely limited the availability of supply chains and manufacturing facilities. previously successful approaches to developing solutions have proven unsustainable during the pandemic. These suddenly imposed restrictions turned out to be a major driver for developing novel approaches to problem solving.
At the same time, technology driven approaches and ad-hoc actions emerged that primarily address symptoms but neglect inherent problems and interdependencies. For example, using software tools for online meetings as substitute for teaching in classrooms might look like a quick and easy fix, but it is bounded by severe limitations: Children with special needs, or families with low income who cannot afford the required equipment present only some of these short-comings. Missing or at the least significantly reduced social interaction between pupils, mounting tensions between children and parents as parents are forced to take over the role of the teacher in the homeschooling scenario, are just two of the inherent problems that mostly cannot be addressed using an online tool.
Effects, that are simply a nuisance that need to be dealt with during times when supply chains and the availability of resources are not affected in any way, severely limit the ability of developing alternative solutions and strategies that go beyond the current understanding and business logic in times of crisis. On the one hand, existing knowledge and experiences make individuals and organizations efficient and effective. On the other hand, they may lead to various forms of mental and functional fixedness. As a result, even though relief strategies and reactions to the current crisis might be built on new technologies, some solutions represent an underlying logic or understanding that does not sufficiently take current events and developments into consideration.
The general demand for novel solutions and creative thinking become even more pressing when previously successful business models, due to the severe impact of the Coronavirus, finally collapse. As financial pressure rises, supply chains stay interrupted, demand in most industries drops, and potential solution spaces seem to vanish, the need for a professional innovation management that not only manages a portfolio of innovation projects but acts as a key driver for fostering creativity as well an enabler for building and designing solutions spaces is growing rapidly.
Furthermore, the proposed framework is based on a holistic understanding of the future role of innovation management that contributes to an increased resilience of organizations. The above effects which influence and, in some cases, limit the ability to develop creative solutions and/or offerings can be observed in other less extreme situations as well. Developing new business strategies or designing the digital transformation of an organization benefit greatly from tools and methodologies applied in innovation management. Therefore, the boundaries between innovation management, IT and strategy development become blurred until they eventually fully merge to one and the same. This will significantly strengthen the ability to develop novel answers for unprecedented internal and external challenges.
This paper is structured as follows: Section (2) provides a short analysis of processes that can hinder creative approaches. Section (3) introduces the main elements of our solution framework to enable innovation. Section (4) describes how these main elements are combined into one integrated approach. Section (5) presents an application example. Section (6) concludes.
2 The foundation and building blocks of the new framework
Dealing with complexity in problem solving
Our minds are not naturally endowed with complex problem-solving skills. According to research in cognitive sciences in prehistoric times our ancestors had to solve fewer complex tasks: Ad-hoc decisions and short term oriented problem-solving dominated decision processes (cf. Dörner 2003 : 12-13). Unfortunately, this kind of thinking still dominates even in today’s complex decision processes that should take long-term effects into consideration.
This is especially important when it comes to solving problems in times of crises: not only do the dominating thought processes in our brain increase the chances that our problem-solving approach leads to disappointing results. Time pressure, emotions, and unpredictability increase the chances that the outcome only produces additional problems without really solving the initial problem (cf. Dörner 2003 : 14-15).
The initial hindrance already occurs when starting the process with insufficient analysis of the problem at hand. There is a certain risk, that based on previous experiences and individual expertise our brain jumps to conclusions and skips the in-depth analysis of vital elements and the underlying network of cause and effect relationships that contribute to generating the problem.