Awakenings: Innovation must happen now

  • May - awakening

In 1990, Penny Marshall dramatised one of Oliver Sacks’ books called Awakenings with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro in the leading roles. For anyone too young to have seen this, or too old to remember it, here is a brief synopsis (stay with me, this is going somewhere).

Williams plays a doctor at a psychiatric institution where De Niro is a patient who has been in a catatonic state for most of his life. Williams’ character discovers a drug that when administered, brings people out of the catatonia – a kind of miraculous awakening.

To me, this virus episode has created a similar moment of awakening in the business world. After years of doing things in one way – tangled up in corporate red tape, imprisoned by the digital doubters and network security Nazis – with a sudden ferocity the game is afoot.

In all the reasons to despair about our economy, the fate of the most vulnerable and the many crises Covid-19 has wrought, this is the crack of light in the doorway. There is a new willingness to embrace digital channels, to consider fundamental product and service innovation, and an acceptance that we will need to serve a changed consumer now and on the other end of this (a particular shout out here to Pick n Pay [not our client] that has really found its mojo in the past few weeks).