| 30.09.2020

Covid crisis fostered innovations of benefit to society

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Although a state of emergency is not the optimal situation for developing novel innovations, a newly published Hanken study shows how the Covid crisis presented certain businesses with the opportunity to take their operations in an entirely new strategic direction.

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread societal disruption this past spring, several businesses developed innovative solutions as a means to survive, but also to contribute to the greater good. While a number of businesses quickly began manufacturing protective equipment or hand disinfectants, completely new services developed as well. A study conducted by the Hanken School of Economics shows that many of the new services that have arisen allow remote presence, they utilise the potential of technology, and they promote human health and well-being.

“These are what are called ‘imposed service innovations’. Such services would not have developed if they had not had a major crisis to catalyse them, and although the majority of them are temporary measures taken to get through the worst of the crisis, we also find innovations that appear to have created entirely new markets, which is highly interesting. The circumstances imposed and the rapid, radical changes in customer behaviour have served to inspire new solutions that might bring about long-term changes in businesses’ operations,” says Professor Kristina Heinonen at the Hanken School of Economics Department of Marketing.

Kristina Heinonen and Hanken Professor Emeritus Tore Strandvik conducted the study in collaboration with the Dutch consulting agency TrendWatching. The study researched 221 innovations, predominantly from Europe, Asia and North America, that were launched by businesses in April 2020. The innovations were collected in a database by crowdsourcing. The innovations included a grocery shopping slot booking service, and museums’ virtual reality experiences. One Finnish innovation in the study is Valio’s net-based service that allowed family and friends to meet up for a virtual Easter dinner together.

“The result shows that, besides attending to their own financial concerns, companies have been taking steps that are benefiting society as a whole. Many businesses have shown great commitment to those disadvantaged and affected in their local areas. It is a way of communicating the businesses’ values, as well as maintaining contact with the market and society on the whole, and thus remaining relevant,” Heinonen says. 

“One conclusion is that it is worthwhile for businesses to have more in-depth insight into their customer behaviours in all contexts. The study reinforces the finding that businesses must take care not to fixate on their in-house corporate strategies and thus stagnate, and instead they need to carefully follow every trend that may directly or indirectly influence their customers’ behaviour,” adds Heinonen. 

The results of the study have been released in the publication Journal of Service Management

The text of the full article is available here: Reframing service innovation: COVID-19 as a catalyst for imposed service innovation. The innovation database is available here: www.covidinnovations.com/ 


For more information, please contact: 

Professor Kristina Heinonen, Department of Marketing, Hanken School of Economics by emailing kristina.heinonen@hanken.fi or calling her on 040-352 1436.