“The coronavirus crisis apparently hasted innovation as events which would have taken 3–5 years without the crisis unfolded within a couple of months. All companies that strive for innovation should put themselves in a similarly inconvenient position on purpose,” said Mart Habakuk, EBS Chancellor, in EBS Economics Studio.
Timmu Tõke, the founder and CEO of the 3D avatar producer Wolf3D, added that the role of the state was not to become financially involved in developing innovation but to create the legal and fiscal environment facilitating innovation for companies.
In the EBS Economics Studio show “Crisis as innovation accelerator”, Timmu Tõke talked about the period of social distancing as a particularly good time for the gaming industry because demand for high-quality video games and 3D avatars increased. “The crisis gave a stimulus to making our business model and operations more effective. Companies must always be prepared for tough economic times, and if declining sales force them to shed jobs, it is only through technology and innovation that they can achieve the same results with a smaller number of people,” Tõke said.
Mart Habakuk added that if a company threw all the resources to ‘putting out fires’, a crisis would be a wasted opportunity: “As the entire society found itself in the COVID-19 accelerator, some companies had already been prepared to change to digital channels, but there also were those that had to complete digitisation in fast forward”. According to Habakuk, an innovation accelerator is a situation which allows experimentation. “The true value of the current crisis will be apparent soon. If our attitude today is mainly “can’t wait for things to get back to normal”, it means we will not have learned anything from this crisis”.
“Start-ups feel inconvenience all the time because a comfort zone as such cannot be created in a start-up company. Similarly, people also need to constantly re-evaluate their skills because many of today’s jobs will not exist in ten years. The share of retraining and additional training is growing every year, and if one cannot find a job at some point, one needs to generate innovation capacity and learn more skills,” Tõke noted.
“The traditional concept of a student in a Master’s programme will disappear as we will be moving to life-long learning. In the future, working in five different spheres over the course of your life will not be unusual at all. Life-long learning sounds much more logical than taking time off work entirely to get a university degree in two years and then starting to look for those who need the profession you have majored in. Your hypothesis of “someone needs what I am studying” needs constant revalidation. Higher education today should be preparing people for jobs which do not exists yet,” Mart Habakuk explained the changing role of higher education.
What Habakuk and Tõke could not agree on was whether 100% teleworking and remote learning was the best solution. “Our experience in business education proves that the best results are provided by combining classroom sessions and remote learning. When face-to-face interaction and digital communication are intertwined, it gives higher motivation to students and employees alike, and results are achieved more effectively. Teleworking and good team dynamics will only function when the communities in question have been formed face-to-face. Over time, they can be maintained remotely, but building team relationships digitally from the start is complicated,” Habakuk said.
“As a manager, I had not believed that teleworking was a good idea, but my opinion has changed now. In 5–10 years, physical presence in one room might be replaced with technology because it keeps developing. Virtual meeting rooms where people can gather will be created, and virtual reality avatars will be used, so the perception experience will be much better in the future than it is now during a video-conference on your screen,” Tõke parried.
Tõke says he expects the state to provide companies with conditions for creating innovation freely by themselves: such conditions imply a logical legal and fiscal system, but the state should not give money for generating innovation. “You cannot rely on the state in this respect. Its role would be performed well enough if it just did not get in the way.”
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