Build a diverse, inclusive team to tackle uncertainty and empower innovation

‘The status quo is our enemy – if we think we know it all and are already doing things the best way possible, we have no incentive to evolve,’ says IMD innovation expert.
69 min.
March 2021

Rapid change and increased complexity have forced organizations to deal with the unexpected and the unknown on a regular basis. Today, the most important factors to building a lasting position as a successful business are the ability to rapidly adapt to this fast-paced change and innovate at speed.

“It’s nothing new – for the past three decades the ‘unknown’ has been increasing and we won’t go back to our old ways of thinking, acting, and living anytime soon,” said Muhdi, in her 12 March 2021 webinar “The need for speed: leverage technology and stakeholder wisdom to move faster in a digital world”.

Organizations that managed to survive – and even thrive – last year did the following things, according to webinar participants: they cope with uncertainty by changing their plans, performing business exploration, adapting communications, embracing digital transformation, and exploring new channels.

Innovation is one of the key determinants of organizational success – it is critical to driving growth and remains an opportunity for many large companies. Muhdi says that because innovation timelines (ideation, prototyping, etc) have been compressed, companies that were able to harness completely new trends and S-curves had a distinct competitive advantage.

“This behavior must continue as it is the key to ensuring long-term success in the new normal,” said Muhdi.

By taking a step back and addressing the state of the world from a larger perspective, organizations can review what they can change internally to succeed: “The tools of the past can’t help with the changes of the present. We must modify, improve, and pivot to excel in the new normal.”

Open innovation has succeeded with unprecedented collaboration, using tech to connect people and organizations for a common purpose. American automaker Ford collaborated with GE to manufacture respirators and ventilators rapidly during the pandemic’s early days, for example.


Muhdi introduced the innovation tool IMD BOOSTR; this science-based, technology-enabled, high-intensity, and immersive process is accessible to anyone, anywhere. Uniquely, it draws on – and builds on – elements of open innovation, crowdsourcing, hackathons, agile sprints, design thinking human-centric, gamification, and other approaches to create value for organizations and their customers. It has five steps to solving challenges:

  1. Identify the problem and focus on what matters
  2. Leverage the collective intelligence of stakeholders
  3. Boost innovation
  4. Mobilize support and energize the workforce
  5. Enable change

Participants shared that they leverage technology to innovate quickly, embrace open innovation, and foster a learning culture – which Muhdi, too, described as the top three tactics for dealing with uncertainty. She also suggested that an important aspect to focus on was diversity and inclusion.

“Diverse teams are smarter because they digest the facts in a much better way than homogeneous teams,” shared Muhdi.

But most of all, Muhdi suggested boosting curiosity by integrating it into performance, as does pharmaceutical manufacturer Novartis. The company allows employees to spend 5% of their working hours devoted to learning, with a vast selection of webinars, readings and other activities to foster an inquisitive and creative environment.

“Worship curiosity and have it be the core value in your organization,” she said.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, discover the program “Lead at the speed of change with OWP liVe,” beginning 29 June 2021.


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