Throughout history, hardship has always provided a catalyst for growth and innovation. This was borne out in the wake of the great recession in 2008, which initially drove widespread job losses and economic decline across the globe. However, it’s thought that the financial crash also ushered in the age of the so-called ‘accidental entrepreneur’, as many of those who unexpectedly lost their jobs decided to launch their own business ventures. This is borne out by the figures, with almost 13% of the US working-age population in the process of launching or running an independent business back in 2013 (according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor). This number was 67% higher than the corresponding figure from 2010, while one-in-five respondents also embraced entrepreneurship out of necessity rather than an opportunity. This provides an important lesson and frame of reference in the current climate, with the number of global coronavirus cases having recently passed 10.3 million and regional lockdowns being considered throughout the world. But how can entrepreneurs and businesses look to thrive against the backdrop of another new normal, and what role could innovation play in this? Adopting a ‘Startup’ Mindset – Driving Rapid Recovery and Growth Firms in western economies have certainly benefited from sustained government assistance in the wake of the pandemic, and this has helped to reinforce the sense of commercial resilience that businesses need to survive during times of hardship. The US administration is currently considering a further $1 trillion economic stimulus and infrastructure package, for example, while the British government quickly rolled out its CBILS loan scheme in conjunction with private lenders to help sustain medium-sized and larger firms during the crisis. However, while these measures focus primarily on helping businesses to survive the worst of the pandemic’s socio-economic impact, they don’t necessarily create a pathway towards near-term growth and prosperity. So, how can businesses look to steal a march on their competitors and build towards a better future, particularly if they’re unable to invest huge amounts of capital? Ultimately, it’s crucial that businesses focus on manageable aspects of transformation that are easily within their control, with the adoption of a so-called ‘startup mindset’ offering a relevant case in point. In simple terms, this represents an agile and proactive way of thinking that favors actions over research, and is likely to eschew excess analysis over practical testing. Of course, this may seem alien to relatively established businesses that have a viable model and an innate sense of caution, but it can deliver huge advantages in markets where competitors are focused primarily on consolidation. This type of tenacious and proactive mindset certainly empowered the Pike Place Market bakery Piroshky Piroshky, which was quick to expand its website and delivery capabilities in the wake of the pandemic to incorporate other businesses in the marketplace. Not only has this decisive action boosted the company’s earnings and driven growth during times of austerity, but it has also provided some invaluable free publicity and widespread awareness for the brand as a whole. Creating a sense of accountability is also central to this, as it’s important to create an immersive culture around your business’s new mindset. By encouraging employees to buy into this and take responsibility for specific actions, it’s possible to grow quickly and thrive even in a challenging climate. Embracing Innovation – What Role Will This Play in Recovery? Another interesting element of the initial response to Covid-19 is the focus on human capital and employees, and more specifically their productivity and the way in which they work. Make no mistake; companies have definitely begun to rethink their existing operating models based on how their staff members work best, with 60% of firms surveyed by McKinsey in early April reporting that their new remote sales models were proving as much (29%) or more efficient (31%) than their previous methodology. With this in mind, it’s likely that these firms will look to focus more seriously on remote and flexible working directives across the globe, as they look to simultaneously minimize costs and optimize productivity in the longer-term. There’s also a crossover here with the acceleration of digital, tech and analytics, with remote working tools such as Microsoft Teams and project management platforms like Trello becoming increasingly commonplace in traditional workplaces. Of course, concepts such as remote working were already in place in the business realm, but recent data has shown that the rate of advancement and adoption has progressed by the equivalent of five years in the course of just eight weeks. Interestingly, the best performing businesses are those that are further embracing digitization, by integrating advanced analytics and big data tools into their existing software. One of the main benefits of this is that it’s enabling firms to combine new sources of both structured and unstructured datasets (such as those driven by social media and satellite imaging) with their own unique insights to improve commercial decision making. The Last Word While the Covid-19 crisis has proved devastating for some firms and marketplaces, it continues to create opportunities for businesses to thrive and build towards a more productive and profitable future. It’s certainly interesting to note that some of the world’s most proactive and forward-thinking firms have delivered success stories during the pandemic, particularly those that have embraced an aggressive startup mindset and laid the foundations for long-term digital transformation. Even on a fundamental level, history has proven that hardship provides a catalyst for innovation and growth, and ultimately it’s the organisations that embrace this that will ultimately be successful.