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I had a couple of conversations in the past week of major economic turmoil that addressed how the pursuit of innovation might be affected by the looming recession. Craig Barrett, Intel’s chairman and former CEO, told a small group of writers and editors during a lunch visit at BusinessWeek’s New York headquarters that companies “can’t save their way out of a recession” and that now is actually a good time to invest in innovation.
This is when forward-thinking corporations can get an edge on their competition by pushing forward with R & D when others aren’t.
I also had coffee with Mickey McManus, president and CEO of MAYA Design in Pittsburgh. The innovation firm’s clients (all listed on their Web site) include divisions of GE, Philips, Samsung, and Whirlpool, among others. He said that the eighteen-year-old, 50-person firm is currently in its most profitable year, and that business is doing well. This to me indicated that yes, indeed, companies who want to nurture imaginative and inventive projects that will come to market after a recession passes are wisely pursuing them now, often with outside partnerships with shops like MAYA. These consultancies can come in handy if they are facing layoffs of members of their full-time “innovation”-related workforces or slashing internal R&D-related budgets.
Yes, this is obviously a very small snapshot. But I do think it’s a telling one that begins to adderess how leaders of companies both large and small think innovation initiatives will be affected by the economic downturn.
What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.