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innovation in hard times

According to a report from the Greek newspaper ‘Kathimerini’, in the years between 2008 and 2014 over 200.000 small and medium enterprises in Greece went out of business. While a company collapse may stem from various reasons, adopting innovative practices is essential for a company’s prosperity. In the years between 2015 to 2018 the market recovered, and innovation and growth as related to research increased significantly.

Source: https://metrics.ekt.gr

Business failure and lack of innovation

While a company collapse can occur abruptly, in many cases it may begin to falter while seemingly, it still is at its peak. Finally, after years of failing to notice the signs of internal erosion, the damage becomes irreparable.

A popular belief held in Greece, is that the debt crisis was the main cause of the vast number of enterprises that went out of business. Despite this popular opinion, the Greek debt crisis was just another contributing factor to the above issue. The majority of these businesses were lacking in improving services and products, while their adaptation on innovations of their respective field was insufficient.

Business failure stems from internal or external factors, the most prominent of which can be:

  • the inability or fear for development and growth,
  • the lack of a strong vision which is comprehended and shared among the employees,
  • the ineffective communication among different sectors of the business, and
  • the weakness of adaptation in a changing market environment by utilizing innovative technologies and best practices.

All of the above can be summed up to: The reason of an organization’s demise is the loss of its mobility, its ability to react to external stimuli to continue its development by discovering and creating intelligent and innovative ideas. As stated by the ex-CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch:

“When the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

Innovative businesses in Greece

How the aforementioned problems could be tackled and what is the line that separates “winners” from “losers” in the Greek market? In order to answer these questions, it is worth mentioning cases of Greek enterprises that managed to survive and grow in the years of the economic crisis and continue to develop until today.

Green Cola


Such an example is ‘Green Cola’ (est. 2012) which operates in the soft-drinks industry and is one of the fastest growing soft drink manufacturers in Greece. Green Cola recognized the demand for a new type of soft-drink and focused on innovative products that were warmly welcomed by the market. Green Cola’s main goal was to offer the first cola drink with natural ingredients and minimum calorific intake. In a three-year period, the company had a 200% growth rate making their products available in more than 20 countries.

CHB Group


CHB Group is one the largest businesses worldwide that focuses on fruit processing. CHB Group not only did it manage to remain relatively unaffected by the crisis, but also made used of it. The company, in a short period of time, managed to increase its’ sales, introduce new lines of production and expand its’ manufacturing sites. The CEO, Nicola Christodoulou, characteristically said: “The main goal of our group is innovation. We constantly strive to create new combinations in our production while our objective is to offer a healthy diet.”

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company


Last but not least, in the midst of 2019, ‘Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company’ innovated by introducing new technologies for optimizing the logistics for its Northern Greece Distribution Center, the largest bottler of drinks in Europe. The company uses an Augmented Reality technology called ‘Vision Picking’. Using vision picking goggles, an operator can see in a 7” screen all the information needed in order to perform a specific task (e.g. self-placement, product selection and quantity). This way the company managed to reduce the number of steps needed for a product to reach the final consumer, leading to great cost reductions.

Examples of organizations that successfully applied innovation can be plenty but all of them share a common principle: the risk of transforming their identity and the ability to see change as an opportunity instead of a threat.

Fostering Innovation Culture to drive future business performance

In order for a business to innovate, it is required a groundwork that will favor the development, implementation and commodification of new ideas. This is what Innovation Culture stands for. Even if the cultivation of an Innovation Culture requires a thorough analysis on the specific market, we could sum up the process in the following steps:

  1. Radar Scan: thorough research of the targeted market (clients, competition, trends, etc.).
  2. Identify opportunity areas: identify the opportunities and the possible threats that require immediate attention by analyzing Radar Scan results.
  3. Innovate Me: formulate an innovation roadmap that can be applied throughout the business.
  4. Strategic Alliances: create strategic partnerships with suppliers, clients, research institutes and other businesses which will amplify the network of the business and its place in the market.
  5. Learn: continuously analyze the results of the actions taken and re-evaluate the strategic planning set with KPIs.

Crucial elements for the aforementioned plan are the communication throughout the organization and the recognition of the trends of the market. Nonetheless, innovation should not be treated as a short-lived initiative that skyrockets profits and promises the growth of an enterprise. On the contrary, it requires a constant and systematic process which should be embedded in the culture and the strategy of the organization.


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