It’s often been said of late that we’re ‘in it together.’ As our economy works to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, many businesses have adopted this mentality. After all, as the economy goes, so goes private enterprise. 

But it’s not enough to be on the same team; to really succeed, every team needs captains who can coordinate the efforts of the entire group. Without leadership, we have no gameplan. Poor economic leadership (or the absence of leaders) would be sure to sow chaos and slow growth in the aftermath of this pandemic. On the other hand, innovative leaders will help their businesses, and the economy, arise from the ashes stronger than before.

Innovation in the Economic Transformation

The post-COVID economic transformation will undoubtedly involve sweeping changes to how we view the role of technology in the workplace (and in business success). This transformation didn’t originate here, of course. The digital transformation has been ongoing for the last several decades.  But this economic climate is accelerating it rapidly and shining a spotlight on the advantages of advanced technologies.

A perfect example cropped up in a recent Forbes article on the leadership potential of utility companies in our COVID-19 recovery. Technological innovation has provided the utilities sector with increasingly sophisticated remote sensor technology that tracks historical consumption trends. Since data on the energy consumption of residential vs. commercial spaces reveals where people are spending their days, it’s also a strong indicator of our progress in reopening the economy. 

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The utilities industry is thus well-positioned to give policy-makers insights into how the economy is responding to relaxed restrictions ‘on the ground,’ when businesses are reopening, and whether we’re on the path towards recovery.  Even better, utility providers can precisely segment this data by geography, industry, and other factors.

This sort of economic leadership is exactly what we need to pull out of the crisis. Each industry can contribute in its own way, and companies that take positions at the forefront will burnish their reputations as thought leaders and key players in their respective markets. Better yet, they’ll be advancing the market recovery for their communities.

Technology Leadership is Economic Leadership

We’re fortunate to have clear data on technology’s impact on economic recovery.  In a prescient piece written in early 2019, Harvard Business Review discussed several major insights into the role that innovation and technology played in our recovery from the Great Recession. Research showed that from 2007 to 2015, the U.S. cities that were hit the hardest “saw a greater demand for higher-order skills—including computer-related skills,” and “companies also increased their investment in information technology.” 

Why? Well, as McKinsey senior partner Katy George told HBR: 

  • First, “improved analytics can help management better understand the business, how the recession is affecting it, and where there’s potential for operational improvements.” 
  • Second, “self funding transformation projects . . . pay off quickly . . . such as automating tasks or adopting data-driven decision making.” 
  • And third, “an uptake in the adoption of digital and advanced analytics . . . create(s) much more flexibility around product changes, volume changes, etc., as well as around movement of your supply chain around the world.”

In other words, an investment in technology and analytics will make your company more effective, more efficient, and more agile.  And remember, the potential benefits are much greater if technological advances are snowballing through your community, region, or industry as a whole.

Leadership in economic transformation will require more than investing in yourself. It takes a macroeconomic perspective and a forward-thinking strategy for amassing synergistic benefits for the whole local business cluster.  

At Waymaker Group, we often advise our clients on actionable, transformative innovation strategies that help business leaders chart a new economic course.  A digital impact analysis, innovation assessment, and workforce gap analysis can go a long way towards revealing your best post-COVID opportunities. 

But data is just the beginning. It’s how you plan to use it—to collaborate, support, and lead your industry—that will fuel our economic transformation.

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