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Innovation is the Key to Surviving the Economic Crisis says Sahar Hashemi

18th December 2008

Sahar Hashemi believes that during an economic downturn, innovation is the single most important condition for turning the crisis into an opportunity.
Sahar, one of the founders of Coffee Republic, believes that in challenging economic times companies have a greater need than ever to innovate and behave entrepreneurially. 

She has put together a few hints and tips to help everyone think differently about the current economic downturn.

The obvious reaction during a downturn is to curl up in a defensive cost-cutting mode. Sahar thinks that this knee jerk reaction could be potentially devastating in the long term for your business.
Instead, she believes you should have the opposite reaction and approach the looming economic crisis with the right mindset. Position yourself to come out on top.   

Sahar urges everyone to see this period as a great opportunity. The shake up in the market amongst competitors creates gaps that were otherwise filled. Those gaps could be your lucky break. 
Opportunity costs come down. Experimenting costs you less. In fact innovation can provide more value in recession than its does in a boom. 
Money can cushion you from your core business and your customer needs.  As you have to watch the pennies you become more creative- by bootstrapping more.  A lack of money fosters a more disciplined approach to life, which in turn fosters creativity. 

What to do:

  • Make innovation a priority despite the short term market conditions
  • Take cost cutting as an opportunity to make your business leaner and more efficient by CUTTING WASTE. But DON’T CUT TALENT and make sure your cuts don’t affect innovation capacity
  • Encourage bootstrapping-it increases efficiency. You no longer throw money at a problem but find a creative and cheap way of solving it. It’s an entrepreneurial habit. Encourage everyone from reception to the boss to bootstrap.
  • The silo mentality is expensive and inefficient. Release the internal barriers, use the crisis outside to bring everyone together. Organise cross functional teams.
  • Let yourself become ‘clueless’ again. The world around you has transformed. Forget about the ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ culture and go out there again  to find cheaper better easier ways of doing what you already do and involve everyone in your business.
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