The waves of crises are increasingly overlapping: Covid waves, climate crisis, supply bottlenecks, energy supply, embargo consequences and a new looming financial crisis. And the ‘old’ challenges are still there: digital transformation, demographic change and shortage of skilled workers as well as decarbonization and electrification. How do you make an organization strategically fit and resilient? How can employees be emotionally stabilized?

Transformations move in waves and curves – driven by innovations, companies and societies evolve out of crises.

In change management, we are familiar with similar curves in the emotional processing of change. Shock, sadness, hope, reorientation are followed by trial and error, initial successes and, if necessary, renewed euphoria. Here, too, ‘trying out the new’ (innovations) is what generates experiences of self-efficacy in us, makes us capable of acting again and thus pulls us out of the crisis.

Charles Darwin once wrote: ‘It’s not the strongest of all species nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change’. This requires a bang at the beginning that creates a sense of urgency – which is now present – and this is a great opportunity for many organizations.

If you look at human history or at nature (for example after forest fires): the vast majority of crises result in a higher level of development in the long term than before. Systemic laws seem to apply here. And also in the economy: many old companies often disappear in crises, new ones appear – but also some of the old companies transform themselves and grow even stronger than they were prior to the crisis.

How does this work in particular?

How can you actively shape your corporate ‘U’ and be among those who are ‘most responsive to change’? As change managers, we have been dealing with such phenomena for many years and have learned from accompanying many companies.

The most important factor is innovation.

The survivors of a crisis are usually the ones who innovate quickly. And it is not always necessarily about technical innovations!

In addition to all the digital technology, it is important to understand new customer needs precisely and to react quickly to them, to interpret new regulatory standards, to recognize opportunities in supply and value chains, and to form alliances. In other words, you have to be able to recognize the drivers of your own business beyond your own value contribution and interpret them in relation to the future. There are proven methods and instruments for this.

You can hire a consulting firm and have them work out the systemic effects of the massive changes and solution options for your own business model, your own industry. This is good, and of course makes me happy as a consultant, but it usually costs a lot of money.

Innovating with your own talent

Another way would be to systematically mobilize the talents in your own organization for this purpose. Nobody knows their own business better than their own employees. There are always unused competencies hidden in your own organization. Employees often have a sharper eye for the weaknesses of an organization than one might think. You just have to know how to ask them the right questions to overcome organizational blindness. That is a bit of an art.

And you have to create free space for your own employees and give them the appropriate methodology – such as design thinking. Then a completely underestimated innovation potential can be discovered in almost every organization – a ‘seed’ of the new after the crisis.

Employees who find and help to raise innovation potentials get visibility, gain project experience, learn methodically. Being able to help shape things creates a sense of self-efficacy and self-confidence. And it is precisely this self-confidence that an organization needs in order to develop the necessary energy for action in a crisis.

And: self-developed innovations have a much higher probability of implementation than consultant-induced ones!

You just have to get it right!

Now comes a bit of advertising:

We have developed and implemented very successful Talents meet Innovations’ projects for a variety of companies.

Talents from within the company can find weaknesses and cost reduction potentials, but also drive new product ideas or process innovations.

This should be driven and supported by the top management.

We help to organize this: In the selection of talent, in the kick-off, in the write-up of innovation projects or analyses, in the creative development of solutions, in the perfect presentation. What the talents learn is much more than any classic training program – we integrate our training units into the talent projects. And we help the leaders to mentor their talents.

At the end, there is often a big event with all stakeholders and executives, which is often organized by the talents themselves, where the innovation ideas are evaluated, and implementations are initiated. The economic effects of such innovation projects almost always outweigh the costs of the project.

Our customers have already initiated and implemented major transformations in this way. With their own forces! Nothing creates more energy for change than feeling your own forces!

Alexander Gisdakis