In the Spotlight – Innovation in a Time of Crisis

We are four months into this global health pandemic at the time of this writing and the world hovers in a state of flux. No one has a crystal ball to predict the future to know when this health crisis and economic disruption will end. Company leaders wake up every day and ask themselves, what will it take for us to survive and thrive on the other side of this pandemic?

Today it is critical that organizations and small business owners challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovate solutions. Yet where does one begin, what is required for you to pivot, to step into the role of innovator?

Who better to answer this question for us in this week’s In the Spotlight than the innovation guy, Joeri Schilders, Founder of The Magic Sauce who works with Fortune 500 companies around the world on this very topic.

Joeri’s spotlight comments:

The game has changed. Drastically. The chips are down. Many have folded and a couple are looking at their cards with a look of despair.

It’s all very uncomfortable, but this is the hand we have been dealt.

Covid19 has thrown in a wrench in all of our lives and it has been incredibly hard on many of us. Myself included.

Almost every industry, business, organisation or country has taken a massive hit and we still have no idea of the full impact on the world yet.

That begs the question “what’s next?”

We need to plan for the future. For possible futures.

The problem is that we are poor predictors of the future. We all are. From the weatherman to the stockbroker. At best, it’s all a guess with some clever reasoning.

But we can all get better at preparing for possibility. Exploring potential. Asking “what if?” questions. Challenging the rules. Discussing what could be and then planning for that.

You can’t just have a five-year strategy anymore. What you need now is a fuzzy goal of where you roughly want to be and then a plan that gets you further, faster. Even if that means tacking and changing along the way.

The companies and individuals who will thrive are the ones who can learn, adapt and manoeuvre quickly. You will need a mindset of action, creativity, and a lot of guts to explore, rethink and pivot.

So, what do you do then?

My hero, Vanilla Ice, said it best: “Stop, collaborate and listen”.


When the whole world around you is moving, sometimes it is best to stop for a second and observe what is going on. Take a few deep breaths, spend a few moments appreciating what you have and give it a smile. Even if you pretend to smile, endorphins will be released, and your stress levels go down. Creativity flows better when you’re relaxed.


It’s all too easy to get in our own heads and get overwhelmed by everything that is going on. But this is exactly the time not to sit still, instead, reach out. Reach out to loved ones, your team, your employees, your customers, your ecosystem, etc. Ask them what they are up to and what they need now. Make them part of your journey and offer to be part of theirs. This is not a time to be selfish, but rather an opportunity to come together.


Listen to what people are saying around you. Ask better and deeper questions. Probe. And really listen. Do not just ask a question to sell your solution. Right now – exceptions aside – no one cares about your solution. This is not a time to sell, it’s a time to really listen. Draw patterns, make connections, take a step back and spot new opportunities. Trust me, they are everywhere.


Then think about how you can jump on those opportunities. Contrary to what many say, vanilla ideas work for many. Not every idea has to be new, big and disruptive. Sometimes, small innovations work. Maybe there is a business model out there you can adapt to this opportunity. Maybe someone else has solved this problem for you already. It doesn’t always have to be original. I once heard an idea only has to be original in its adaptation to the problem.


The ice-cold truth is that if you don’t take this time to innovate, and you go under, no one will care. No cares that you were dealt a bad hand or that it was so unfair that your business took a nose-dive or that you were retrenched. No one cares. You’ll get a few sympathy points, but that’s about it. It is up to you what you do with it all and how you make it work.

The best news is that this too shall pass. It always does. But it is what you do now that will dictate in what shape you come out of this. Not everyone is dealt the same hand of cards, but we all have the opportunity to play that hand as best as we can.

Let’s not waste a good crisis. It is the perfect time to innovate, see what you are really made of and change the game. Or create a new game altogether. Even if you don’t, I will. With a smile on my face.

So what are you waiting for? Roll up those sleeves and get your hands dirty.

About Joeri Schilders

JoeriInnovation guy Joeri Schilders and founder of The Magic Sauce has been in Asia over 20 years and spends most his time facilitating innovation and co-creation.

He did not go to the University of Innovation, but rather brings real battle stories and tough lessons from having run more than 100 innovation projects with Fortune 500 clients around the world. All delivered in an array of languages, like German and Mandarin Chinese.

This experience has given him a level of pragmatism, cultural sensitivity and a sense of humour that keeps him grounded. Add to that a level of energy and excitement that few can match.

Be sure to check out Joeri’s YouTube channel ‘The Magic Sauce’ for a library of super practical videos around how to facilitate innovation.

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