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Being resilient means focusing on avoiding disruptions to your productivity when possible, establishing fast-acting recovery strategies and effectively responding to any crisis situation. What does balancing product, service or even business innovation with resilience mean to you? An answer may not come to mind initially, especially if rapid innovation is a core element of your business strategy.

The No. 1 objective of an organization’s leadership team is to deliver products or services that appropriately align with the needs of their customers. Leaders recognize that what’s needed now for optimal product or service delivery may change in the future—hence the need for innovation. However, a focus on innovation without consideration for resilience can introduce issues such as supplier single points of failure, non-sustainable practices or communication lapses. The pandemic and geopolitical tensions have taught countless organizations this painful lesson.

Here’s a simple case study example. Company X identified a way to save 14% on production costs and increase the lifespan of its product by 21% by introducing a new raw material replacement. However, there are only two sources of this raw material, and both are sourced in countries facing international sanctions. What should leadership do, and what would the customer think? Perhaps proceeding with the innovation makes sense, or perhaps the risk is too high. Being intentional from a resilience management perspective is essential to making the best decision.

Pinpoint Single Points of Failure

Addressing single points of failure is an essential step when balancing innovation opportunities with resilience. It’s important to determine your organization’s alternatives for inputs, suppliers and geographic sources if a crisis or disruption occurs with your primary source. Knowing who you can depend on when a quick switch is needed will provide you and your team with peace of mind and minimal delay. Not only should you know your substitute, but your organization should also consider substitution all the way back into the research and development process to ensure innovation is resilient.

Sustainable Tactics

Research and development and product management organizations must innovate in a sustainable manner. Here, sustainability refers to three main points: when more than one organization provides the input (i.e., the raw material used for the product or service); when there’s more than one location that provides that input; and when the organization, location or both is stable, in terms of both controls and from a geopolitical standpoint. Failing to innovate sustainably can lead to unnecessary failure, disruption, higher cost and, ultimately, a poor customer experience.

Improved Communication

One common innovation mistake relates to communication between key team members. Business continuity and resilience professionals often fail to engage with an organization’s research and development and product management teams. This lack of engagement can directly correlate to imbalanced financial optimization and customer experience. Instead, work to incorporate resilience as far back in the product or service development process as necessary.

Key to Resilient Innovation

The key to balancing innovation and resilience is approaching it in a manner that includes a fallback plan that allows your organization to revert back to pre-innovation practices; consideration of sustainable suppliers and sources when selecting the input for your products or services; and preparedness to call on your substitutes as acceptable resources when your primary source is unavailable.

To effectively transform your organization with this knowledge in hand, there are two actions to get you moving in the right direction. First, go back and address single points of failure and vulnerabilities. Prioritize them based on the issues and exposures attached to the organization’s most important products and services. Then, future-proof by considering resilience early on when applying innovation to improve product or service capability.

So, go ahead and double down on innovation and focus on opportunities for competitive differentiation. Allow your organization to evolve and improve, but be intentional and apply resilience concepts as early on as the research and development process. The key is balance and sustainability, recognizing the complex nature and fragility of global supply chains.