The Two Mothers of Innovation

By Julián Gómez Bejarano, Chief Digital Officer at LedaMC

Nassim Taleb used to say that a ‘black swan’ is an unpredictable event that has a high impact on us. To describe it more simply, he used the example of the turkey that is eaten on American tables when the year comes to an end. From the turkey’s point of view, every day he receives food and becomes fatter.  However, nothing indicates that one day, without warning, he will lose his head like a character in Game of Thrones. It is not predictable and the impact is enormous.

For many, the coronavirus pandemic is not a ‘black swan’ because as the Spanish saying goes “cuando las barbas de tu vecino veas cortar, ponas las tuyas a remojar” (i.e. when you see your neighbor’s beard cut, soak yours).  We may or may not have been forewarned, but could anyone have predicted it?

What is certain is that this new situation has forced us to break our routines – to change the way we think and to adapt quickly. Companies that used to freely distribute profits have had to carry out an ERTE due to the massive quarantine.  Who could have predicted it?

Companies that reluctantly offered teleworking options to a tiny portion of their workforce, for fear of losing control over their people, have been forced to choose between going out of business or extending the use of teleworking to their entire workforce.  Who could have predicted it?

This is the perfect breeding ground for disruption, for new ideas to emerge – radical ideas, successful ideas.  This is an environment where necessity presses us, where it almost strangles us, where no one doubts that we have to change what we do, where no one doubts that we have to stop doing things the way we were doing them.  It is an environment where there are also limitations, restrictions and where we cannot do just anything.  Above all, it is an environment where we are hungry for success.

When the brain grows…

The fewer options we have, the more limitations we have and this is where the ‘brain emerges’.  These situations are opportunities for us to unleash our full potential and to find solutions that no one saw, that no one believed viable.

The professional soccer league has been suspended, what if we create a virtual soccer league?

Ibai Llanos, a well-known League of Legends commentator and influencer in the world of video games, has organized a tournament parallel to the first division league called Liga Challenge.  Thousands of people follow the competition, as if it were the same league, raising 180,000 euros. This is quite a success for something that arose from a setback.

“I can’ t serve the public in bars and cafes, what if we deliver like Glovo, UberEats?”

All the bars, restaurants and cafeterias in Spain have had to close, they can only sell takeaway. What have they done? Cry? No, what they have done is to look for an alternative. They deliver menus at home, cafeterias that sell you coffee, fishmongers who deliver your hake at home…

The need, the limitation, the win to win, who could have predicted it?

Another way of doing things

Innovation is also finding another way of doing the same thing. We are witnessing an unprecedented mobilization; sorry, an unprecedented solidarity, where everyone, who is able to, is helping to make available the medical equipment needed to treat the infected.

The design community is designing 3D drawings of respirators that are being distributed free of charge to all those who can print them. They are also doing the same with the design of protective screens for healthcare workers. Others are designing their own masks to help, even if it’s only with a small grain of sand.

That is also innovation and that is what we have to keep in mind when we face our day: to change those things that we continue to do in the same way – to do them more effectively and efficiently.

We have examples like the one given by Microsoft with Microsoft Teams to help improve the interactions of software development teams.  There are also applications like Quanter, that optimize the software development estimation process, how much it will cost us what we are going to develop, turning it into a simple and efficient process.

That is what we have to keep in mind – to innovate.  To also attend to the two mothers of innovation – the disruption and the improvement of what we do, so it is more efficient, more effective.