The Recession Was A Gift—An Optimist’s Guide To Successful Innovation

Life is GoodI left the Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston this week inspired. Bert Jacobs, founder of Life Is Good, has made his entire life and a 100+ million dollar business about optimism.

And there are times when it’s tough to be optimistic.

While successful innovators must be (generally) positive people, it’s truly a skill to be able to stay optimistic during some of the most trying times, including personal, business or economic crises.

When Bert showed the audience his sales results, and the graph soared year over year for more than a decade, it was evident that the entire company was a success, save for an ominous plateau in 2009 and 2010.

Apparently, the optimism industry is not immune to the pinch of an economic downturn.

Bert noted, “I consider the recession as a gift. It gave us the chance to stop, think and do some long-term strategy work.”

In fact, the demand for innovation services tends to rise during tough times, but not everywhere. It rises in organizations that are financially and emotionally healthy.

Why is a recession the best time to innovate?

  1. Your competition is distracted. Especially those who are not as financially and emotionally healthy. Competitors without these assets will act in scarcity mode. They will make cuts freely, sometimes in areas where they should not. They will make emotional decisions based on politics and protection of what exists. And they cannot think creatively.
  2. The most talented people are on the lookout. Products, services and business models have lifecycles. The most visionary thinkers are looking out for what the next big thing is, and they want to align with it. It’s a great time to bring outsiders in, or acquire new talent.
  3. The market is looking for something new. Economic downturn is a sign of the market changing. Consumers are hoping for something to create opportunities for the future and are more receptive to ideas.

A healthy dose of optimism is a key ingredient to successful innovation.

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