Innovation Strategy Roundtable Insights

Creative Leadership Collective has a dream: To create an environment that excites and empowers our colleagues to excel at innovation, and thereby produce better results for our company, country and continent. Our first roundtable signifies the start of this realising this ambitious vision 

We believe it is important to begin documenting and sharing our indigenous knowledge about how best to drive and manage innovation in an African context. By doing so, we may offer innovation management solutions to the world and be part of the fourth industrial revolution, rather than only being acted upon by it.

We kicked off our inaugural Innovation Strategy Roundtable last Thursday. Hosted at the Adcorp Head Office by PMI Southern Africa COO Hein Weyers, we were thrilled with the enthusiastic and collaborative nature of the meeting.

We aimed to look at the design of strategies to support innovation and, in light of this, Sean Doherty (Chief Operating Officer Investment Banking, Standard Bank Group), Bruce Adrain (Head Innovation Capability Build, Liberty Group) and Niki Neumann (Managing Director, AFGRI Technology Services) shared valuable insights into how their organisations are tackling this challenge, after which the floor was opened to discussions.

Some key points of consideration around Innovation Strategy emerged…

Innovation Without Strategy Leads to Chaos

Strategy and innovation are often viewed as polar opposites. Innovation can be viewed as the epitome of opportunism—requiring continuous pivots in new directions, as markets shift rapidly and new information comes in.

Strategy is often described as the pursuit of a clearly defined path that is pursued through a carefully chosen set of activities. Yet the two desperately need each other. Strategy without innovation is central planning. Innovation without strategy leads to chaos in the form of continuous pivoting.

A lean innovation strategy must align with the only aspect of the business strategy that is in some sense permanent: the organisation’s vision or ultimate purpose— the reason for its existence.

A Big Problem Worth Falling in Love With

Then we need to identify the big, compelling business problem we’re trying to solve with innovation. This becomes central to the innovation strategy. It could be the need to tackle a ‘growth gap’ in our financial projections – for example. It needs to be a problem that is worth falling in love with, and that will get the attention (and support) of the most senior leadership.

Next, it’s important to design innovation practices and processes that ensure we solve this problem in client-driven ways that create value.

Leadership Buy-in

If you don’t have the support of the right people in the right places nothing’s going to happen. Getting buy-in from the execs who hold the purse strings means outlining the value in tackling the big, compelling business problem we’re trying to solve with innovation – and that means starting new businesses, building new products, and getting new clients.

Failure is Valuable

Not only is it easy to measure, if you don’t fail you don’t learn and grow. But we need to create an environment where people have the creative confidence to get out of the usual way of thinking; where there is psychological safety to play, and fail.

Cultivating Innovative Minds is Paramount

The only way to thrive, or even survive, is to find workers who can co-create value with and for customers, and constantly improve operations. Getting people to ‘think’ is important, but realise that only 7 to 8% of your pool is going to bite. Throw your net wide for inputs across your company, even going so far as to implement compulsory workshops in systems thinking training or creative problem-solving. Those who are ready and willing – and have the growth mind set – will step up and help drive the innovation effort.

Execute. Execute. Execute.

Finally, it’s all about the execution. It’s good to have a plan, and the plan can change, but at the end of the day innovation success is all about execution.

Members networked before, during and after the roundtable where a number of promising connections were made. Very exciting to see what comes of that.

Upcoming events on the calendar are the The Founding Friends CEO Dinner in February and the Leadership that Accelerates Innovation Roundtable and our first Innovation Safari.

CLC Africa is proudly sponsored by the South African Water Research Commission. If you are interested in joining as a member, please email Paul Steenkamp and he’ll guide you through our application process.