Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world is currently being put to a tough test. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only cost lives, but has also created an enormous damaging impact on the entire economy – every morning we read headlines about countries downgrading their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) forecasts, rising unemployment rate and introducing stimulus packages as they prepare for rough times ahead.
However difficult, these times can unexpectedly foster an environment where businesses that embrace innovation may find a competitive advantage that keeps them afloat.
Innovation and resilience
While in the midst of a crisis, hindsight can be 20/20 – businesses may feel the consequences of not having made earlier investments in innovation that could have alleviated the challenges that they are currently facing in maintaining business continuity. Moreover, it may be easy to lose sight of the benefits of innovation when times are smooth, with the effects and benefits usually seen over the long term. Hence, it is essential for businesses to build up their attitude and investment towards innovation regardless of rough or smooth times.
In a recent fireside chat conversation I had with Dr. Jui Lim, Chief Executive Officer at SGInnovate, he cautioned businesses to learn from the lessons of this pandemic and to put effort into maintaining the mindset towards innovation, even after the current crisis tides over.
Over the past few months, the healthcare industry in particular has been forced to embrace innovation at rapid pace. According to Teena Pisarev, Managing Director of Virtus Health, large-scale social distancing and government interventions have altered patients’ expectations as many now prefer to have treatments done remotely and virtually. She believes that these changes will be embedded into the way the healthcare industry engages with patients in the future – further pushing the industry as a whole to embrace innovation to meet and overcome the challenges brought by the global health crisis.
Furthermore, Sandra Ng, Group Vice President heading IDC’s Asia-Pacific Practice Group, revealed that the Asia-Pacific region is currently leading in terms of their recovery journey, with a majority of organizations now at the business continuity and targeted investment stages. This COVID-19 pandemic has shown that investments in Digital Transformation have paid off over the long term, with organizations that invested pre-crisis more resilient in the current environment.
The nature of innovation
Innovation may seem daunting for a business to embrace. Understandably, businesses may hesitate to innovate when they conceptualize innovation to be radical, disruptive or prohibitively expensive. However, not every instance of innovation has to be cutting edge or transformative. While bleeding-edge technology might be out of reach for your average business, incremental innovation in the form of cost optimization, cost management and improved workflow efficiency can also result in better business outcomes.
The technology-rich environment today enables creative ideation and innovation to take place in a digital economy for businesses large and small. As businesses seek to innovate, they look to simultaneously level up their digital performance to meet user experience expectations, by building connections among partners, customers and supporting cloud services. These new entrants to the digital economy can benefit from equalizers such as Platform Equinix® that offer connectivity to ecosystems on a global scale — allowing them to start the journey to build out innovation ecosystems as part of their digital journey while benefiting from Platform Equinix® in terms of connectivity and costs. In an increasingly collaborative economy, this boosted interconnection will empower them to tap upon innovation ecosystems to develop new solutions.
A pressure cooker that brings out innovation
The current pandemic has significantly expedited the need to adapt and innovate, with its impact only highlighting the importance of innovation needed by companies to maintain business continuity and adapt to uncertainty. Traditional industries that might have previously resisted innovation are now acknowledging its value as a business imperative – with a prime example being the healthcare industry.
With the risks of COVID-19 transmission, the healthcare industry has aimed to decrease these risks by embracing telemedicine such as tele-diagnosing patients, remote patient care as well as novel ways of tackling and managing the ongoing coronavirus crisis. These examples include drone-based temperature-taking in Australia and a newly developed lab-on-a-chip system in Singapore.
Discussions about telemedicine may have been ongoing in the past decade. However, it took the ongoing pandemic to put them into action with the intersection of information, communication technology and medical healthcare via the Internet of Medical Things (IOMT), that opens up the field for distance-based healthcare in the future. In India, Apollo Hospital, the largest private hospital in India has seen at their peak 80% of consultations being conducted remotely – an example on how the health crisis has galvanized a paradigm shift in the acceptance and rollout of telehealth.
The spreading pandemic has also accelerated the push for collaborations between parallel industries – with businesses in a wide range of industries, from automobile to cosmetics, pivoting to support the healthcare industry with their capabilities. The ability to quickly shift one’s business direction allows companies to be more adaptive to changes, especially areas of demand, which is just one of the lessons hard learned from this pandemic.
As such, it’s essential for businesses to leverage technology and digital capabilities in order to brace themselves against uncertainties, or even accelerate growth ahead of their competitors by using innovation as a differentiator.
Overall, the pressure of the current situation has only showcased the necessity for innovation and digital transformation; either you board the innovation train or risk being left behind. Even as they work to tide through the current crisis, businesses should begin to build their investments toward innovation as part of their strategy, so as to avoid having to make decisions in the short term that will affect their long-term innovation journey while they’re under external pressures.