Acton Institute Powerblog

COVID-19’s entrepreneurial creativity

(Photo credit: Elvert Barnes. CC BY-SA 2.0)

The “new normal” of the COVID-19 pandemic has settled in and, with it, a new host of challenges. Businesses have adapted to the changing needs and desires of individuals in creative ways, sometimes radically changing their products, structures, and strategies. Through the dynamic process of creative destruction, firms that do not adapt to changing customer needs will close their doors while companies with real solutions will arise. Businesses in a variety of spheres have demonstrated that they are able to solve real world problems in a rapid manner.

In the healthcare space, many companies pivoted to help alleviate the pain caused by the outbreak of the pandemic. Avillino pivoted from genetic data to COVID-19 testing in the span of four weeks. 3D printing company 3YourMind changed its strategy in a matter of days to focus on making ventilators. This agility is unique to private companies, which have the ability to adapt quickly, take risks, and receive feedback from consumers as to whether their solution is effective.

The entertainment industry is rapidly adapting to the fact that individuals are more likely to consume entertainment from their homes. Streaming services had been expanding before the pandemic, but consumer reluctance to attend movie theaters in person has only accelerated the trend. Before 2020, “straight-to-video” was almost an insult, but that is changing. Disney debuted its big-budget film Mulan straight to Disney+. Releasing films directly to in-home viewing is becoming mainstream. In fact, Disney has undergone a major corporate structure reorganization in order to focus more on streaming. Every entertainment company, large or small, will have to reckon with these shifts. Even the old-school Metropolitan Opera hosts nightly streams to attract fans to their online subscription services.

The education industry is likewise poised for a shake-up. College students were less likely to attend this year due to health risks and restrictions on in-person classes. Digital subscriptions could upend the education industry. Google has entered the higher education sphere with its Google Career Certificates. The program is a six-month online certificate that is designed to prepare individuals for specific jobs. Time will tell whether this model will gain traction. But with freshman college enrollment down 16%, some change is certain. Many colleges and universities will have to specialize to stay afloat.

A related story is playing out in the primary and secondary education space. Since many schools have not opened for in-person education this fall, entrepreneurs and parents have created solutions to help students learn at home. Among other solutions, parents have turned to social media to organize Pandemic Pods, and the micro-school company Prenda facilitates small groups of students learning at home with a teacher.

This is only a small sampling of the how companies have started to pivot to solve novel problems. Churches that are struggling to collect donations in person can utilize a plethora of services such as the tithe.ly app or PaySimple. Customers who are homebound can use a delivery service for household necessities. Some distilleries have switched from producing whiskey to hand sanitizer. Restaurants have adapted to deliver their products to diners in different ways. There is no end to the creativity that individuals will employ to solve problems.

These changes should not be cause for alarm. Consumer desires always change over time, and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly compacted these changes into a short period of time. But this sampling of companies and products shows that shifts are not debilitating. No company can solve all our problems, but the fleet of firms working independently are able to alleviate individuals’ discomfort. Different individuals and groups have unique needs, and companies adapt to address those various needs. These novel solutions should excite us and create hope for the future. And in perhaps the best COVID-19 business development, Black Friday may be over for good.

Noah Gould

Noah is a Programs Associate at the Acton Institute where he regularly contributes to the blog and Religion and Liberty. He is a graduate of Grove City College, where he studied Economics.