Innovating in a pandemic: Is there opportunity within adversity?

Watch the full recorded broadcast above.

Nearly everyone and everything — people, organizations, and societies — have been badly jolted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet some of history’s most important innovations have come out of similar unplanned jolts.

On July 9, 2020, The Ivey Academy’s Executive Director, Mark Healy, was joined by Ivey professor Rob Austin to discuss how innovation can be kickstarted by crises. They covered the history of “jolts” and their relationship to innovation, why innovation tends to be difficult for organizations in normal times, and shared a few examples of ways the pandemic may already be driving important innovation.

Key webinar content

Core topics

  • Innovation defined
  • Pushing innovation in normal times vs. times of crisis
  • Accidental innovation and notable examples of innovations that happened accidentally
  • The importance of open-mindedness in advancing innovation
  • The two-stage model of innovation
  • Ways leaders can encourage innovation in their own organizations
  • Forced innovation
  • The tension between innovation and the pressure to reach financial targets and return value to shareholders
  • Incentivizing innovation and how to incentivize creatively to maximize effectiveness
  • The role of scarcity and constraints in the process of developing innovative solutions
  • Collective learning from the pandemic
  • Neurodiversity as it relates to innovation
  • How to build a culture of innovation into an organization

Memorable quotes

“Innovation really has two components. It’s something that has to be new, original, or novel. It also needs to be valuable. So anything that’s new and valuable, I think we can count it as some kind of an innovation.” – Rob Austin

“Almost half of major innovations contain an accidental element … the things that accidents do – that is in common with our current pandemic era – is that they jolt us. The great advantage in accidents and jolts is that they take us to places in our imagination that we would not have thought to go to intentionally.” – Rob Austin

Additional reading

The most important factor in building a culture of innovation, The Ivey Academy
The accidental innovator, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge
Neurodiversity as a competitive advantageHarvard Business Review
Bridging the gap between stewards and creators, MITSloan Management Review


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About The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School
The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School is the home for executive Learning and Development (L&D) in Canada. It is Canada’s only full-service L&D house, blending Financial Times top-ranked university-based executive education with talent assessment, instructional design and strategy, and behaviour change sustainment. 

Rooted in Ivey Business School’s real-world leadership approach, The Ivey Academy is a place where professionals come to get better, to break old habits and establish new ones, to practice, to change, to obtain coaching and support, and to join a powerful peer network. Follow The Ivey Academy on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Associated Faculty

Rob  Austin

Rob Austin

Professor, Information Systems