A frog in a pot of water is relaxing in peace. If we heat the pot slowly, the frog will continue to relax in the water, oblivious to the increasing temperature until it is too late. On the other hand, if we put the frog in a pot of already boiling water, it will react in response to the sudden change, attempting to jump from the pot. The frog in this alternate scenario sees a clear signal of danger.
Similar to the “frog in a pot” metaphor, each of us may be able to think of a time when something went wrong. When the problem arose, we were more than likely unprepared for it and we didn’t notice weak signals that were warning us of a looming problem until the problem itself became obvious.
In a quest to find, polish, and execute best responses or solutions to a problem or crisis, people by default go through a process of refining or improving upon existing options. During this process innovation is likely to take place. Generally, innovation is about responding to and solving problems in new ways. An innovator doesn’t have to reinvent the entire wheel. Instead, an innovator may identify processes or parts of processes that aren’t working well and make an adjustment or enhancement to these.
Why do we talk about “innovative ability” here and now?
In Cambodia, the World Health Organization and Ministry of Health are lead actors flattening the curve and stopping the spread of COVID-19. Local solutions have developed in parallel to support these efforts. Those solutions come in the form of “eat to donate” models by restaurants, “free from COVID-19 symptoms” driver symbols by taxi apps, contactless delivery by food delivery businesses, a Ministry of Tourism traveler accommodation registration system, and mobile apps to send and receive the latest COVID-19 information by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.
These local initiatives illustrate everyone’s ability to innovate, without calling it innovation in the first place. Whether the idea emerged from a staff member at a restaurant or a government officer at one of the ministries, innovation is taking place all around us. An example of contactless delivery shows us that a slight refinement (a driver stands around 2 meters away from the item he delivers and waits for the buyer to pick it up) to a process of food delivery businesses can keep them running while limiting the spread of COVID-19 from human-to-human interaction.
Such local innovators are ordinary people who are driven by creating solutions. They see space that others do not. They see problems as opportunities. On a daily basis, they come into a workplace with an open mindset to learn what is wrong and to identify opportunities to do things better.
The critical message we need to convey is that the ability to innovate is not restricted to only those in certain roles, in certain sectors, or with certain expertise. Everyone is an innovator, and your innovative solutions can help support the COVID-19 response. Humanity needs this everyday innovation on all fronts.
Exercise it now!
Yes, now! Innovation is not about advanced tools nor about new products or services. You might start by contributing meaningful interventions for your organization during this pandemic by, for example, helping to migrate team collaboration from the physical meeting room to the digital workspace, avoiding face-to-face contact while maintaining teamwork. That might just save your employer, and that’s your first step in becoming an innovator.
Authored by Phynuch Thong, Head of Solutions Mapping, Accelerator Lab Cambodia