23 September 2021

How Can Businesses Innovate for Good?

Can being purpose-driven unlock innovation? You bet it can. Our US team shares their thoughts on the subject.

Businesses are being challenged to play a more meaningful role in society — such as taking a stand against racial injustice, embracing sustainability, or addressing the mental and physical well-being of their people. It’s no longer acceptable for businesses to talk about how they aspire to make society better without living up to them. Consumers, job seekers, employees, and investors judge them for their actions, too. As brands respond by being more purpose-driven, they’re demonstrating an uncanny ability to innovate, too. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Combatting racism with VR

Vantage Point, a training company in California, has come up with an innovative approach to diversity and inclusion training for other businesses: using virtual reality to help employees understand what it is like to experience and witness racism. The VR courses change the dynamic of workplace training: from education to empathy. Wearing VR headsets, employees experience racism instead of learning about it conceptually. In one scenario, trainees witness a racist remark and are asked whether they would challenge it or let it pass. In another, a trainee experiences micro-aggressions and unconscious bias in recruitment that victims of racism experience. VR training is catching fire at big companies such as Cisco, and Vantage Point is thriving as a result. 

Protecting the Environment with Artificial Intelligence

A startup named Pachama has made a major breakthrough to help businesses practice sustainability. Pachama relies on artificial intelligence to measure the impact of reforestation. Forests are the most proven and cost-effective means of drawing down atmospheric carbon, which is why it’s important to protect and replenish them. But until now, tracking the progress of reforestation has been a labor-intensive process, leading to unreliable reporting. This lack of data discourages businesses from investing in reforestation. But Pachama has found a way to solve the tracking problem. The company combines imaging with AI to process vast amounts of data and identify features (such as tree crown sizes and shapes) that are used to make carbon and biomass estimates without manually measuring more trees. With this reliable data, Pachama is encouraging more organisations and people to invest in new forest carbon projects because they can measure the impact of the effort. Pachama has gained the support of businesses ranging from Microsoft to Shopify.

Helping the World Reclaim a Sense of Normal

As more businesses and institutions require proof of vaccination against Covid-19 for their customers and employees, a question looms: how to easily show proof of vaccination in a reliable and trustworthy way? Unfortunately, the proliferation of unreliable vaccine verification apps and fraudulent records has already made answering this question very difficult. But a number of big tech firms are working on a solution right now. Apple, Google, and Samsung are developing ways for people to use their smartphones to show their Covid-19 vaccination status with a simple tap. Samsung recently announced that owners of Samsung Galaxy devices can load their vaccination records from the CommonHealth app. Users verify their identity and gain access to their status from the pharmacy or healthcare provider that provided their shot, which combats the potential use of fraudulent digital vaccine records. Meanwhile, the Excelsior Pass app developed by IBM provides a scannable QR code for entry at different businesses. They display no personal information beyond whether that person received a shot, thus addressing ongoing privacy concerns about passport apps. Google and Apple are also working on solutions that make it possible for users of Android and iOS to verify proof of vaccination – accurately, reliably, and privately. In doing so, all the big tech firms are finding new ways to connect the worlds of mobile and wellness care.

How Isobar Plays a Role

Purpose-driven innovation requires a willingness to test and learn. Isobar helps businesses innovate for good by applying our own skills, expertise, and methodology to drive measurable social impact. Our capabilities include strategy, product prototyping/development, business model innovation, and more. We provide global training for our teams to deliver these workshops remotely to clients, creating online tools and templates and utilising tools such as Adobe XE and Miro board.  

For example, we recently helped Monash Health become a more inclusive organisation by re-imagining the way it delivers care to an often-overlooked patient: adolescents with disabilities or chronic health issues. We relied on product development techniques such as design thinking to identify what sort of initiatives these kids and teenagers would like to see, to improve their care at the hospital and their lives overall.

Our clients typically want to achieve one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals identified by the United Nations to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The goals are ambitious – and businesses don’t always know where to start. We help them not only understand how to get started but to rally their organisations around these goals. For instance, our work with Monash Health helps meet Sustainable Development Goal Number 3: Good Health and Well-being. 

For Isobar, embracing purpose-driven innovation also means applying a test-and-learn approach internally. For instance, we periodically host hackathons for our people to push boundaries of technology and creativity as we strive to produce transformative digital experiences commercially. We’ve used hackathons to conceive of ways to solve real-world problems. For instance, one of our hackathons, focused on using machine learning and artificial intelligence to create social change. The final products were fantastic to see. One of our teams created Common Ground VR, a virtual reality simulation that healthcare givers could use to simulate what it’s like to have a visual disability like macular degeneration.  Thanks to initiatives such as hackathons, our teams continue to push themselves to understand how to innovate in purposeful ways.

To learn how we might help your business deliver results through purpose-driven innovation, contact us at Isobar.