Innover en temps de crise - Entrevue avec Marie-Michèle Larivée

You will find bellow the english translation of the interview.

Q: How do innovation processes change in the face of a crisis situation, at the managerial, social and individual levels?

A: The way it actually changes is through the many faces that have happened in times of crisis. There is the shock phase, where some have been in the refusal of change. Afterwards, there was a phase called adaptation or compromise. We talked a lot about flexibility in business strategies, the fact of changing and being able to adapt. Adaptation a lot. So there are all these stages that come in the course of change, both for managerial processes and for social relations within the company. After several stages, the shock, the understanding and the absorption, we have the changes that are really put forward. We can say that humans become aware that changes are here to stay, and we are talking about adaptation in this case.

Q: What will be the biggest change brought about by the covid-19 situation?

A: In fact, an impact is not necessarily seen overnight. A trend is like anything else, it takes time to evolve and gain momentum. So the virus in fact, what it brought us of viral, it's that we will rather see the change in the generations that are younger, so generation that is A. It will be a decisive part of their life that will evolve. What I like to mention, which in my humble opinion is very true, is that the trends that were already present before the pandemic were just on steroids, have been accelerated in the time of the pandemic. Everything that was technological shift, use of social networks, use of augmented reality, everything that is DIY, so crafts, everything that is handmade, homemade, there was a lot of that that we saw going by. There is also a subject that is very precious to me that has continued to evolve: mental load and mental health either at home, at work or at school. In fact, not so much the mental health that has evolved, but the fact that everyone has realized that mental health is fragile, and that has an impact on a lot of things, whether it be fashion, textiles, colors and so on.

Q: Is it appropriate to talk about a return to "normal"?

A: No. There is never a return to normal. Because "normal" is actually a specific second called zeitgeist, the era of time, which is always changing. Since time is moving forward, we are constantly changing. And that, I think, you have to accept that in order to be able to move forward and to be able to say, "Okay, that happened, we are moving forward, and together we are able to build something new". In fact, they say that to foresee the future, you have to create it. We have to take charge of our decisions, take charge of what's going on in our planet, and then make these changes to see a future that we would like to see.

Q: How should companies reinvent themselves?

A: To reinvent yourself, you really have to use intuition. In the past, companies relied heavily on data collected in previous seasons, i.e. before the pandemic. Now we're in a new trend where people have become aware of certain issues: ecological issues, local purchasing issues, social issues with all the standards of those who work in companies... So all this is a change and we won't go backwards. I think that in a post-covid world, if you can call it that, where you don't have data and everything has to be built, it's actually a really good opportunity to trust your intuition and go looking for opportunities, business opportunities or opportunities for change, that you wouldn't have done before.

Q: How can a company anticipate a crisis and take advantage of it?

A: Yes, this is called scenario building. It is often in the form of workshops that can take place inside the company. I lead workshops like that. It's something you don't see very often in Quebec companies, and that's what's missing. Scenario building, it is in fact with everyone's intuition and creativity, we shift our mindsets a bit like a case study, but even more towards the future. We have all heard about Bill Gates who was prepared for another pandemic. So it's a bit like doing that, but within our company. We can prepare for many things. We can imagine all kinds of futures, not necessarily just a pandemic. Because the next thing that's going to happen is not necessarily a pandemic. Yes, there will be others, the scientists say so, but there will be other things that will happen. Let's say, fashion without garbage. What does that mean? So a world without garbage, what does that mean? There's no more packaging, there's no more garbage, you can't look for a garbage can when you go outside for coffee. All this leads us to new processes, new services, new prototypes that give us ideas for moving forward. And imagine that tomorrow morning, the garbage collectors go on strike, and well, we are prepared and our minds are very happy to have been prepared.

Q: How do you spark creativity in your employees, colleagues or for your own operations?

A: I offer you my three C's. It's something I use, and I talk about it a bit around me. My three C's are actually first of all "Cardio". So working out for creativity. To get out of the frame which is very "working and productive". By getting out of the frame, you're able to see things differently, a bit like when we were talking about the script. In fact, by doing something else, the answer sometimes appears. Cardio by doing sports, walking, running, cycling... Then "Cleaning". So Cleaning, there are two: cleaning, meaning cleaning yourself, or cleaning the house. And the third one is "Commute". Switching from one place to the other, so going to work, going to visit... Some people, while driving, have a lot of ideas. There are others that it's while biking, or walking, on the metro, on the bus... I know a columnist who always writes in the metro. That's to say that it cultivates creativity. Personally, it's in the shower. When you're in need of creativity, you can use these three Cs. So Cardio, Cleaning or Commute.

Q: How can students develop an innovative strategy and capture and track trends?

A: I think we have to use this enthusiasm, this youthfulness, or just this desire to help. And I would say not to capitalize too much on trends. Right now, I'm as if I'm against my own industry. What I mean is that we're actually seeing a lot of the "top 5 trends", the "2-3 trends", and these are things that are already a little too late. When we talk about a strategy, it's often done upstream. By the time it's implemented, it has to be completely new and completely innovative. Often in fashion it's a new product, and by the time it's marketed, it can take 2 to 5 years. So you don't have to rely on a trend that is present now. You have to think about how it's going to evolve, and how it's going to go in the future. Then from there, you can talk about a trend that is future, not a trend that is present now. What we call fads are flash trends. These are trends that you can't build on right now because by the time it's on the market, so 2 years or more, it's already gone. We can also forecast scenarios, make consumer observations, observations of primary not secondary data: things that have never been seen or created and rely on our intuition a lot.

Q: Do you have tools to offer students?

A: I like curves, and we see a lot of them in the data. People draw data curves. But we can also very easily draw curves of our observations. And then, as a team, we can discuss our observations and build strategies. As tools, I think we need to write down, write down a lot. And the more we have, the more we can do something with it. So start writing early, and then you'll see that it's useful.

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