How to reinvent during a cisis

Is your business facing a crisis? Are you running out of cash, demand dropping, or has a competitor entered your market? If so, a change may be necessary. But companies should not focus just on myopic routine innovation. Instead, radical innovation, disruptive innovation, and architectural innovation strategies are the keys to growth. You could seek opportunities through new business model innovations or implement an ongoing innovation strategy. Innovation business lessons from crisis.


At ASB, we've worked with many companies to help them find new solutions through innovation when a crisis hits. As a result, we've identified common themes and tips for company innovation strategies to help gain a sustainable competitive advantage for long term success.

1. Take stock


What assets does your business currently have? Your investments could range from a reputable brand and loyal customers to physical assets such as vehicles, premises, stock, shopfronts, and a willing and adaptable workforce. So, what innovation initiatives can you implement to repurpose them to your best advantage? Effective innovation strategy examples include:


  • Vehicle leasing or touring businesses use their existing vehicles and workforce to support the growing demand for couriered goods. A good strategy for traditional events companies with large tracts of land is to create temporary accommodation sites.
  • Some Kiwi businesses have also implemented an innovation strategy that works to support the unemployed. They banded together to redeploy workers from companies that have had to reduce staff to companies needing extra help due to increased demand.

Take stock and think, what existing products or services do you have that some else can use? Or that can provide a larger societal benefit? Conversely, what does someone else have that you need?

2. Take note


How have your customer needs changed? How have new technologies changed consumers' buying behaviours? And are those changes likely to continue?


  • We've seen successful innovators with traditional physical footprints developing an innovation strategy to grow their market share through virtual experiences. For example, many people now choose coffee shops to order online, removing the need to queue. And shoppers vow to never go back to the supermarket after experiencing online grocery shopping.
  • Another example is a high-end Kiwi fashion retailer offering virtual personal shopper appointments. This effective strategy means the store can serve its customer base by allowing existing and potential customers to "visit" the shop at times previously unavailable to them.

Some innovation efforts can translate into a more virtual environment, but others just won't. So apply some pragmatic thinking to your innovation strategy for the short, mid and long-term around:

  • What can you no longer do?
  • What can you still do?
  • What can you do now?
  • What can't you do now?
  • How does all of this fit with your customers' needs and expectations?

3. Do the scratch test

If you were to build your business plans again from scratch, would it look the same as how it looks today? Probably not! Therefore, this may be the opportunity you've been waiting for. Make those changes by leveraging your existing business model to focus on the continuous improvement of your core capabilities. Whatever innovation strategy you implement, make sure you get your teams committed to your innovation management processes to ensure its continued success.

  • We've seen how innovation helps a new digital payments channel that initially targeted the Not-for-Profit sector to shift its focus to hospitality. This innovation strategy resulted in payment capability coupled with contact tracing to enable hospitality sites to open under the Ministry of Health Guidelines.
  • Another example of business model innovation is in the healthcare sector. For example, doctors' surgeries have developed a clever innovation strategy to consult with clients during lockdowns. Now, virtual appointments are their new standard practice, giving only physical appointments if and when required.

4. Tap the ecosystem

Who is in your broader ecosystem? How has their business growth been over the last two months? What new ideas or incremental innovation strategies have they implemented to their core business? Are there any common denominators between you and these other companies (markets, suppliers, products, assets) that could benefit from collaboration and embracing open innovation?

  • An excellent example of a successful innovation strategy is the convergence of a gourmet meat company with an online sporting gear and car parts business. The new partners started a gourmet meat delivery service direct to houses during lockdown via the existing distribution network of the online retailer. These resource allocation decisions led to a robust new revenue stream even after the government lifted the lockdown restrictions.

It's been heartening to see a common innovation mission between businesses, organisations and the government. If you haven't already, now is the time to map out your innovation strategy. Work out your supply chains, broader industry players, and who is in your wider network and give them a call - or Zoom.

5. Check out new technology

How can you translate your service offering to be more digital? How can you use digital tools to unlock greater efficiencies, strip cost out of your business or reach new markets?

Innovation leaders are taking their operations digital to trade through a crisis and engage new customers. For example, technological innovation includes SaaS subscription services abound with eCommerce options, collaboration and CRM tools, virtual experience design, stock management and supply chain tools.

Look inside your industry, see what other businesses are deploying, and identify the best ideas to drive innovation for the future growth of your business.

6. Look to the horizon

What will your business model look like in 6 months? And, as the environment changes around you, what will your business look like in 12 – 18 months and two years?

Established companies must build their new business models to be more resilient. How can you stress test your new model so that you are confident it can weather a changing environment? How can your business be as robust as possible - whether it be your workforce, your IT and cyber security practices, your environmental footprint or your distribution model to market?

Uncertainty is a familiar feeling in business. And all companies, regardless of size or complexity, are working through these areas and more. We are all in this together. Our ASB teams are here to provide you with a sounding board and share other first-hand examples that may better suit your overall business strategy.

Next steps

  • Get in touch by enquiring online, visit a branch or call 0800 272 222.
  • Reach out to your business support network (accountant, adviser, mentor, other business owners, senior leaders, friends and family) if you need help with your innovation process.
  • Revisit your business objectives to look ahead. Download our template if you don't have one.

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