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COVID-19 is a serious wake up call for sustainable innovation

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In the past few weeks, more businesses and organisations are becoming more concerned about the continuity and sustainability of their businesses.

And innovation has become an essential part of that equation. It has been embraced by businesses and organisations throughout the world to ensure the longevity of their business.

In recent years, innovation and sustainability have intertwined and become a singular factor that innovation leaders see as a non-optional effort in running their organisations.

What does sustainable innovation mean?

In many ways, it means that the innovation effort is more driven for resources and environment rather than short-term gains and impact.

Businesses and organisations are becoming more aware that the resources shouldn’t be consumed faster than they can be regenerated and to put a framework where the innovation culture and mindset runs seamlessly through generations.

There are ways that businesses and organisations do for their innovation program: They create innovation from within (internal) and collaboration with external. This means they do incubation programmes, accelerator programmes, hackathons or the more popular choice these days, venture capital arm to invest in innovative products.

However, these things have a limitation as proven by the past these weeks while lots of countries implementing lockdown for COVID-19, forcing businesses and organisations to come up with a way to keep their innovation programme running given that limitation.

It is important for businesses to remember that whatever effort they made will not work without three things:

Innovation mindset

The mindset of innovation means you have to think about collaboration and the root of collaboration is trust. This is something that a lot of organisations having a hard time doing. However, the root of giving trust to your team or partners is essential in making collaboration work. The mindset of doing things yourself instead of partnerships needs to change.

Commitment and tools

Innovation needs to be both inclusive and top-down. It means people on top of the organisation need to understand, articulate and commit in equipping their team with the resources they need to make it happen. In addition, the bottom-up approach can work in a very specific and rare case.


Finally, the core of all this effort is to build yourself a team that is competent, committed and agile. The member of this team will be a group of people that you trust, commit your resources to, and make your vision come true. With the correct framework you put in place, these people will go beyond your wildest dream –in a good way!

These three points ensure that businesses and organisations that wish to generate sustainable innovation in the future need to build a sustainable team, resources, and commitment equipped with the right tool. Be it hackathon, incubation, accelerator, or investment in innovation, those points above should exist.

The sustainable innovation team will produce sustainable innovation products, therefore, building a sustainable business and organisations. This is why we encourage open innovation through our efforts in Indonesia. Businesses need to do things smarter and faster while taking risks which is a significant part of innovation.

Also, we do believe in making the cost of making a mistake (risk) as cheap as possible, fostering experimentation and an agile mindset.

Making changes through innovation processes can be challenging, however, whether we like it or not, businesses and organisations will be judged on their existence and impact five to ten years ahead. It is a challenge that requires strong leadership and big decisions internally that demands significant resources over the long term.

At the same time, this is an area that stimulates an enormous amount of engagement and motivation among our workforce and unleashes a huge amount of innovation that will attract the right people to our company.

The article was originally published on e27, on Mar. 23, 2020.