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Crisis-driven innovation


The coronavirus pandemic will fuel the ‘next wave of innovation’, says an article in Entrepreneur magazine by Hamza Mudassir, Visiting Fellow in Strategy and alumnus (MBA 2012) of Cambridge Judge Business School.

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Hamza Mudassir
Hamza Mudassir

The coronavirus pandemic will fuel a new wave of innovation the way that other big crises have altered the history of society and business, according to an article in Entrepreneur magazine by Hamza Mudassir, Visiting Fellow in Strategy at Cambridge Judge Business School.

The article’s prediction of a coronavirus-linked innovation wave was cited by the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jason Feifer, in a letter to the publication’s readers that called on entrepreneurs to “discard what worked yesterday, and embrace the needs of tomorrow.”

The article, “COVID-19 will fuel the next wave of innovation” by Hamza, a Cambridge MBA graduate, writes that “Black Swan” events such as recessions and pandemics “change the trajectory of governments, economies and businesses – altering the course of history.”

For example, the Black Death of the mid-1300s shattered Europe’s feudal system, while deep economic recession flowing from decades of war between Britain and France three centuries later led to innovations that boosted agricultural productivity. Much more recently, the SARS pandemic in 2002-04 helped e-commerce company Alibaba become a global leader, due to fear of traveling similar to the current coronavirus crisis, the article says.

While both recessions and pandemics can be Black Swan events, the article points out how they differently affect business transformation: “A recession usually brings about an acceleration in business model change, driving down costs to serve and prices. On the other hand, pandemics tend to enable entirely new categories of businesses.”

Three “macro innovations” can be expected to flow from the coronavirus crisis over the long term, says Hamza.

  • Supply chains will become more distributed and co-ordinated across multiple geographies and suppliers in order to reduce concentration risk that results in knock-on supply issues at times of crisis.
  • There will be an acceleration of “smart cities” and “digital bureaucracies” around the world because this will help governments better manage future disruptive events.
  • Mental health support increasingly will be provided digitally and at scale as more workers work remotely, in order to help tackle the problem of isolation.

“COVID-19 is a terrible shock to the global economy as well as the thousands of individuals and families it has affected,” the article concludes. “Over the longer term, COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the way businesses will compete over the next decade. Firms that choose to capitalise on these underlying changes will succeed and the ones that don’t will get disrupted.”