What a year to start a new enterprise!  In this article, we reflect on some of the big global events that have changed the way we all approach business and innovation over the last 12 months and what our team has done to help companies navigate these changes.

This time last year, we launched Ignite Exponential. At the time we were focussed on helping customers to navigate technology disruption, and the changes needed to create a more sustainable way of doing business.

Our first months were a blur – an expanded team, a new name, catching up with past customers and sharing our plans for Ignite. We launched our new website; and in our first month had our first project: helping a US medical devices company to develop a more strategic innovation framework and approach (link to case study).  It was great to hit the ground running!

While impeachment proceedings followed (not for us I emphasise), there was Brexit, Brexit, Brexit (still) and more challenges with data privacy for Facebook et al. While this crazy news cycle was going on we enjoyed sharing our own news and introducing Ignite as a participant, speaker, facilitator and sometimes chair at innovation gatherings with communities from Florence to Chicago, New York to London, and from Milton Keynes to Toronto.

And through these many discussions, a sense was building that 2019/20 was going to be critical for global sustainability. More global temperature records were broken, more ice loss (Greenland), more extreme fires (Australia) and hurricanes (Doran, Bahamas). 11,000 scientists from around the world published a study in the journal BioScience, warning "clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency”. Gretta Thunberg and 4 million people went on strike around the world to say enough is enough. We believe that now is the time for action, for innovation, for new technologies and for disruptive business models that might just enable the transformation we need.

One industry that we feel is particularly important to the global sustainable balance, and for which we have real passion is Agriculture. We were proud to partner with Rhiza, a provider of satellite data to farmers to help them drive digital adoption of their tools (link to case study) – it’s only by better deploying innovative technologies like these that we can meet our growing needs whilst preserving the environment for successive generations.

Another area that is critical to our future sustainability and security is the supply chain. For example, we’ve been working with start-up Celsius Limited (link to case study) to help them create a virtual cold-chain that can make the best use of the available capacity in the otherwise fragmented supply chain, reduce waste, environmental impact and improve supply chain robustness.

And then COVID-19 hit. First a whisper from Wuhan, and then country by country over the early part of 2020, we all felt the impact of the measures that were introduced to contain the spread of the virus. Fortunately, as I wrote about in March (link), our team is as well prepared as we could have hoped for to work physically remotely from each other and from our customers. But in some ways, I feel we’ve never been more connected and aware of the complementary roles that we each play, and in the importance of our purpose.

While COVID-19 disruption impacts the way we all work it has also had a dramatic impact on our customers’ relationships with their consumers. Through 2020 as the virus unfolded we’ve been working with a US sports and lifestyle products company helping them to learn from leaders in other industries about the challenges for ‘physical’ product companies, to make that important transition to digital consumer connections.  It continues to be a fascinating collaboration that we believe will create a great foundation for growth in spite of the pandemic disruption itself.

We continue to support other customers across markets to help them explore how to respond and adapt to disruption – we hope to tell you more about these soon.  We’ve also started to codify and share publicly some of the frameworks that we’ve found useful in these turbulent times, including:

  • our ‘new market entry risk analysis’ framework: (link)
  • the ‘4A’s of innovation’ from emerging markets to help businesses innovate in uncertainty (link); and
  • the role scenarios can play in helping to manage uncertainty, even over much shorter timeframes than traditional scenario planning (link).

And of course, we won’t stop there. For instance, we shortly plan to launch a new service to help companies pivot over just a few collaborative weeks – watch this space! (More soon – please let me know if you’re interested when it’s available).

So that’s been the year that was for Ignite Exponential. While we’re not in control of what the future will bring, we do believe we have an important part in helping to create it. Thanks for coming with us on the journey – let’s make it a great future together.