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Innovation is Essential for Success During the COVID-19 Pandemic – and Can Be Achieved Faster and Cheaper Than You Think

May 5th 2020

By Marina Bertoldi, Founder at Time Factory Studio

Innovation is often considered a luxury – something to do when we have time and money. But amongst the many painful lessons we have learned from the generational crisis that is the COVID-19 pandemic, is that innovation is in fact a core necessity for us all to keep our businesses alive.

Many companies are at a make-it-or-break-it moment. A recent Greater Vancouver Board of Trade/B.C. Chamber of Commerce/B.C. Business Council surveyed their members and only just over half (53 percent) of them expect to reopen once the restrictions are eased. Half think they won’t make it and will close permanently. 

Government support is helpful for some, but innovation is the only path forward through the COVID-19 crisis for most. But where to start? A common mistake leaders often make is chasing only high profile, monumental and disruptive innovations. This puts a lot of pressure on their teams to constantly come up with big, transformative ideas. And it’s an all-or-nothing approach. Pretty high risk when the businesses’ future is on the line.

Surprisingly, the research tells us the opposite: the reality is that the most successful innovation is actually a series of small incremental changes, not one big transformative idea. 

Design Sprints use a combination of gold-standard approaches to project management, business strategy and human behaviour learnings into one system to help innovators develop better products and solve problems faster (which means cheaper). It takes the traditional model of product design, for example, and changes the approach to ensure the new product both gets approved and works for customers. 

How? It uses a step-by-step system that brings your team together to solve large problems strategically without endless discussions. Within four days, a team can go from vague ideas and challenges to a high-impact strategy and a high-fidelity prototype crafted by experts that can be tested with customers. Before jumping into the real design and development work, save time and money by talking with your users and validating your concept. In addition, instead of relying on failed brainstorms, endless meetings and email chains, decisions are made rapidly through new approaches like Lightening Decision Jams that use structured, outcome-based workshops. 

The good news is that the Design Sprint approach has already been proven effective by companies such as Google, Uber, LEGO, Airbnb and Microsoft, and it is gaining traction throughout the business and academic communities (even Harvard teaches it now). 

Whether you are a chain of restaurants preparing for reopening in a new physical distancing environment, a safety manufacturer adapting your factory to produce only personal protective equipment for the health sector, or a large insurance company that relied on personal contact for sales – the Design Sprint approach can help you pivot and innovate in a way that is easier, cheaper, better and faster. It won’t be a silver bullet, but in these times of uncertainty, as the saying goes, Design Sprints can provide a more focused and proven approach to innovation than just hope.

For more information on how Design Sprints can help you and your organization, contact Marina Bertoldi at or Tamara Little at