Innovation can be the key to creating a better normal.

As early as 2001, Elon Musk could be found going around trying to convince people that commercial space travel was possible. Fast forward nearly 20 years later to May 30, during what has been a dark time for many, a bright spot soared through a blue, cloud filled sky over Cape Canaveral. Carrying astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurely, the Crew Dragon capsule launched atop a Falcon 9 on a journey to the International Space Station (ISS).

Prior to this historic event, it had been nine years since NASA had closed its human spaceflight program and what many thought was the end of the U.S. sending astronauts into space. We can learn a lot from this story. Thanks to the hard work and passion by the SpaceX and NASA teams, and many others, we are reminded of how innovation creates a better normal.

Three things underpin this theory: continuity of purpose, the power of innovation to unite and inspire, and the opportunity costs of slowing or stopping innovation.

Continuity of purpose is critical during times of change

Chances are you’ve probably had plans to invest in innovation this year. Then COVID-19 hit and everything changed. However, this isn’t the first time we faced a crisis that had a global economic impact.

If you think back over the last 10 years during the time that SpaceX and NASA have been relentlessly pursuing their goal for human spaceflight, they had to navigate some very difficult times. A commitment to human space flight endured through nearly a decade of change that included the demise of a most feared terrorist, the Ebola outbreak, mass shootings in Las Vegas, the deadly earthquake that shook Haiti and several major hurricanes that rippled across the east coast of the U.S. Add to that several changes in government leadership. Still, the partnership between the commercial SpaceX corporation and NASA prevailed to achieve the goal of once again safely sending humans into space.

This achievement was only possible because of continuity of purpose. Even through changes in power, government leaders carried on the mission and were laser-focused on making spaceflight possible, even through a crisis.

Innovation unites and inspires

Bringing together commercial space programs with government organizations like NASA shows how innovation truly unites. Throughout history so many innovations have united those with a passion to innovate and those that become early adopters.

Universities and businesses continue to collaborate and help take early ideas from inception to commercial products. Many companies like PDI teamed up with their customers to solve their toughest problems or helped advance their technology strategies through co-innovation.

Also, at PDI we believe in fostering an innovative spirit through events like the virtual Hackathon we’re hosting this summer. There’s no better way to unite a remote workforce than some friendly competition with a virtual hackathon. By collecting ideas from around the company, PDI’s SparkHack Beta event will allow passionate engineers, product marketing managers, and others to explore the Art of the Possible. The event kicks off this summer.

The opportunity costs resulting from slowing or stopping innovation

As you’re considering your innovation projects, either those you’ve put on hold, or those you’ve pushed to next year, consider the opportunity costs. Also consider what our world would be like if a crisis or trying economic times put these innovations on hold.

The Great Depression was said to be a time of great ingenuity and an incredible example of the power of the human spirit to prevail, even during the most difficult of times. In the most unlikely places, there were sparks of innovation. Two brothers invented the car radio, and their invention was later marketed as the Motorola. An inventor serving his country was inspired to build a better mouse trap. Colonel Jacob Schick invented the electric razor out of desperation to avoid freezing cold water while spending time in Alaska. Then after returning to serve his country during WWI, he perfected his innovation using the design of repeating firearms in razors with replaceable blades.

While there are likely cost savings from putting innovation projects on hold, there will very likely be opportunity costs that could put you further behind your competition or put more distance between you and your customers.

How innovation can create a better normal

PDI recently launched a Thoughtexchange, an open idea exchange form. We asked what’s top of mind and how has COVID-19 impacted your businesses? The top trending thought was transitioning to the new commerce model. It’s clear the stakes are high for many in our industry, and most are facing challenges and struggling to find ways to overcome them. So, no matter what problems your business faces, consider your innovation agenda. Whether you’re a retailer looking to improve the customer experience with new forms of payment or order ahead and delivery options, or your business is focused on the transportation of fuel and looking to automate processes, improve driver safety and increase visibility, innovation is the key to a better normal.

You can thrive in today’s digital economy. Contact us today, to learn how we can help you transform your business.