Criticaleye's Community Updates are read each week by Members, registered users, and subscribers globally. Click on any of the topics below to see the corresponding newsletter. If you would like to comment further on any of these topics, write to us via

Balancing Cutbacks

As you would expect, most of the questions and discussion points coming up in the Community at the moment revolve around the downturn, namely how leaders should be responding to the current climate and what decisions they should be taking. At the heart of this debate is how organisations can balance short-term cutbacks with medium and long-term growth. Innovation, for example, is necessary for long-term success, but in an environment where survival is forefront in leaders' minds and businesses are pulling back on capital expenditure, how much money and resource should leaders be allocating in this area? 

Phil Smith, Managing Director, UK & Ireland for Cisco Systems believes that challenging times will create an even greater need to innovate. He explains: "Whether innovating in products that address the desire to improve productivity or creating a business model to outwit or outpace the competition, the current climate has accelerated the pace of innovation. What the downturn has also shown is that some of the changes we are making were probably always required and will prove irreversible. For example, once you have changed the way you do business by reducing travel and exploiting technology, why go back? Once you have changed the way you deal with your customers in a more efficient and personal way, why go back?" 

Alastair Lukies, Chief Executive for Monitise plc, reiterates these sentiments:"Ideas are the engine that drives successful economies and one of the greatest risks to UK plc over the coming months is that business leaders retreat into their bunkers and ignore opportunities to innovate their businesses and products. It is absolutely critical that the business community ensures that ideas continue to flow freely and that they maintain a realistic perspective towards risk. The UK is recognised across the world for its creative entrepreneurialism, our best opportunity today is to maintain this throughout the coming months so that we can capitalise swiftly on the opportunities that the upturn will most certainly offer." 

Rakesh Patel, CEO of Goldshield Group adds: "Economic downturns force businesses to face challenges and also to discover opportunities in order to streamline their operations and find innovative approaches to deliver the best possible business performance results. We have used such opportunities in the past to review internal processes and find new roads into the markets. By investing in any kind of innovative approaches, companies not just develop a survival kit for a stringent current environment, but also create a strong platform for growth and prosperity in the future."

These sentiments, that companies need to embrace innovation to remain competitive, are echoed throughout the Community. But in a difficult market where cost is clearly an issue, organisations need to be resourceful.

Andrew Hosty, CEO, Technical Ceramics for Morgan Crucible describes how he is overcoming this issue: "I think it is important that you keep to your strategy in this environment and innovation is at the heart of ours. One of the ways, in good times and hard times, that we have supported innovation is by working in partnership with our customers. The practical way this manifests itself is in shared investment, particularly when specific capital equipment is required. I also find the willingness of a customer to share in such investments is a good measure of how differentiated our ideas are."

There is also the question of where organisations should be focusing innovation. Brendan Hynes, CEO for Nichols plc, comments: "I believe, that in the short-term, we must focus our innovation around core businesses or brands. This means more focus on things like product extensions, new pack sizes or value offerings rather than sanctioning new, higher risk products onto the market."

Balancing Cutback Insights

As always, we have plenty of Insights to help you decide how and where you should be innovating in this challenging time. Innovation: What It Is and How You Do It? is the Write-up of a Criticaleye Discussion Group at the end of November 2008 where participants discussed innovation and the downturn and how to involve all stakeholders in the innovation process.Innovation In Consumer Productsa paper by Accenture, details how to identify lucrative ideas for innovation and products that will deliver ROI. Please also see an article from Criticaleye's own publication, the Review, entitled Reframing Recession: Lessons from the Potato which focuses on the imperative nature of innovation in a difficult climate.

Matthew Blagg, CEO, Criticaleye