Innovation Flourishes in Down Cycles

Maintain your sense of destiny

There’s a connection between bad times and breakthroughs. Just take a look at the beginnings of Tesla, Uber, Apple, and General Electric.

Most great innovations happen in down cycles, according to Dr. Jeff DeGraff, University of Michigan business professor, author, and advisor to Fortune 500 companies.

In the midst of the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, so many stepped up to help in myriad ways. Small businesses have made hand sanitizers and masks. Universities have graduated medical students early so they can join the frontline of healthcare. And hotels are providing free rooms to doctors and nurses, so they can protect their families from exposure to the virus.

“America showed up, and so did the rest of the world. It’s really the human spirit,” Dr. DeGraff said during Haworth Connect, which features engaging and inspiring speakers for our clients and community.

In this period of great uncertainty, he added, it is also a time for greatness—whether that is helping with the COVID-19 effort, taking on a project that has been languishing, or acting on a secret longing that has just been waiting for that day when you have time.

As Dr. DeGraff uses this time for his own back-burner projects—to write a new book, to start another business—he notes that our “someday” for working on innovative ideas and creative solutions is today.

For more on innovation and the way we are working now, visit our Webinar Series on our Asia Pacific website.

“I think it's a really incredible time. The most important thing is to maintain your sense of destiny. Even though you're going to get the stuffing beat out of you; that's part of being an innovator. We need you because your sense of destiny is what's going to pull us out of this. It's done it every time, and it happens everywhere in the world.”

Dr. Jeff DeGraff
Ross School of Business Professor, University of Michigan

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