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Cornwall Innovation Club: Adapting to Change

12 November 2020

Fittingly on the day that the Chancellor was due to announce the government’s Winter Economy Plan, we held our Cornwall Innovation Club event: Adapting to Change.  The country and specifically Cornwall has and continues to be a precarious place to operate any organisation, yet according to Kim Conchie,(CEO, Cornwall Chamber of Commerce) “the Cornish reaction to things like this is to start a business.” 

Kim pointed out that not many businesses in CIoS have truly pivoted their business model during the current crisis, but many have diversified.  “If you are not adapting to the technological delivery systems that are now available and commonplace then you won’t survive.”  He believes that Cornish businesses can play to Cornish strengths and values and that geography is now largely irrelevant due to developing technologies and changes in consumer behaviour.  Kim closed his address by stating that “our resilience is going to be tested and innovation skills will be put to the test.”

“A culture of innovation is absolutely essential.  It sits perfectly with the public vision and private psyche of Cornish people.  If we can hold our nerve this winter, we can see that we are one of the most innovative places in the country.”

We were delighted to invite Professor Sa’ad Medhat from the Institute of Innovation Knowledge Exchange to deliver the keynote speech at the event. The essence of Professor Medhat’s talk was that in order to manage ambiguity, and irrespective of the size or type of business, leaders need to focus on business model innovation with four questions needing to be at the centre of their plans:

  • Are your offerings still relevant to today’s context and target audiences?
  • Do your Business and Operating Models continue to offer sustained value?
  • Is your strategy on course to deliver business goals?
  • Are our people ready to embrace change for a new normal?

Professor Medhat focussed on the type of planning for the future that is required in a time of true ambiguity.  He likened it to a flight simulator where a pilot needs to be ready to respond to changes in terrain and changes in weather conditions amongst other variable factors.  In order for business leaders to be adept at managing ambiguity they must utilise scenario planning.

Strategic planning requires three key phases, each with a clear timeline:

  • Review the business
  • Recover from the situation
  • Reinvent the business

Professor Medhat explored each of these phases, highlighting the importance of sprint experiments during the recovery phase: being sure to involve customers/end users in timebound tests that are solving a certain problem.  The leader of the future must act as a superhero, continuously ensuring that they have created a dynamically adaptive business that utilises trendspotting, actionable intelligence and continuous transformation.

“You can’t wait too long.  You need to act in the moment and ensure that the culture works for you.”

Proof that Professor Medhat’s ideas around adapting to change in a time of ambiguity had weight was in Joe Healey’s story of how Healey’s Cyder have adapted their business model during the current crisis. Joe called what they’ve done at Healey’s an evolution rather than a revolution but clearly what they have tried and tested over the last few months has had a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

Not only have they adapted their onsite visitor centre to make it COVID-safe and in the process improve visitor experience by minimising queues, Healeys also made a simple offer on Facebook to deliver their products locally for free.  This led to a surge in demand for their products (with 92% from outside of Cornwall, who were not even eligible for the free delivery option) as people from across the UK wanted to bring Cornwall to their homes.  Click here to read more about how Healeys adapted their business model in a time of crisis.

During the panel Q&A that followed, it was clear that communication was felt to be critical for maintaining staff morale during times of ambiguity.  Leading by example on things such as rules (around maintaining a COVID-safe environment) and making time for virtual communication if you cannot see people in person were the key points made.  Being transparent, along with being honest and upfront about a situation is crucial in maintaing staff morale.  With transparency and communication, the workforce has confidence in the management and is more likely to stay on board throughout any changes, especially within a crisis situation.

It was also felt that effective digital storytelling is pivotal for maintaining relationships with customers, staff and suppliers.

If you missed the event and would like to watch a recording, why not join the club and we will send you a link to watch the full event.


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