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Businesses innovating their way into post-COVID future – Lenovo

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for innovation – while the scientific community were producing a vaccine at unheard-of speed, commerce was quicker still in largely transforming to a work-from-anywhere model. 

Lenovo Group launched “Beyond Boundaries”, a new report on the state of business innovation today. The study examines how businesses are innovating their way into the post-COVID future, not just to satisfy pent-up demand and unlock growth, but also to improve their social and environmental performance. 

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for innovation – while the scientific community were producing a vaccine at unheard-of speed, commerce was quicker still in largely transforming to a work-from-anywhere model. 

But how do businesses not only keep these benefits of innovation, but continue to ride the wave? To find the answers to these questions, Lenovo surveyed senior decision makers in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and Asia Pacific. The result is the ‘Beyond Boundaries’ report, a deep-dive into changing attitudes to innovation, and the tensions that exist post-pandemic for businesses looking to re-build and grow. 

Report highlights include the findings that: 

  • Businesses recognize that diversity is directly related to successful innovation, but there is more work to do before individuals can be their authentic selves at work.   
  • Disrupting a stifling, hierarchical culture – also related to effective innovation – is far from easy. The study finds some leaders are struggling to embrace a bottom-up working environment. 
  • Business agility has led to improved innovation. However, there are fears that these gains will be lost as firms transition back into the office, or adopt a hybrid model that balances on-site and remote working. 

Tellingly, for all the positive talk about risk-taking and innovation, many businesses remain wary of leaping into the unknown. Six out of every ten companies (59%) say senior leadership often requests that an innovation is discontinued for being too risky or experimental. This rises to 70% in North America. 

And what of the much-vaunted environmental impact of innovation? It seems that the bigger the company, the more likely it is to be using innovation to improve environmental sustainability. Encouragingly, almost half (49%) of larger businesses say a key driver of innovation is to improve their overall performance in environmental sustainability. 

Meanwhile 60% of larger businesses say the crisis catalyzed their efforts to use innovation to improve their social and environmental performance, compared with 54% of all those surveyed.  

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“Over the past year, COVID challenged everyone and changed everything – so we responded to the challenge with what we know best: innovation,” said Yuanqing Yang, Lenovo Chairman and CEO. “Now, on the threshold of the next reality, innovation remains key to unlocking our full potential. As we transform from a leading device maker to a global technology powerhouse, capable of solving the most challenging problems faced by our customers and the wider world, this commitment to innovation is more crucial than ever. 

“For us, innovation is by its nature unpredictable, and is applied in unexpected places – such as revolutionizing hybrid working environments and improving environmental and corporate governance practices. But none of this happens in a vacuum, which is why we talked to business leaders around the world about what comes next – and how together, a focus on innovation can help us change the world for the better.”

Other highlights include the findings that: 

  • Senior leaders say they want to step back and let innovation flourish, but the experience of junior executives suggests otherwise. 
  • Innovation relies on diversity, but the ability to “fit the mold” helps if you want to challenge the status quo. 
  • To unlock the next level of innovation, businesses should use technology to build on COVID-era openness and collaboration.

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