With an economy that is struggling under ongoing pressure of petrol price hikes and a weakening rand, South Africa looks to face another quarter of decreased consumer spend.

It can be tempting for businesses to cut back their growth efforts during these times, but Innovation Academy, a global learning business that trains more than 2 000 professionals a year, urges South African executives to instead focus on expanding their innovation portfolios if they want to survive.

“History has shown that innovation blooms during the tough times, and businesses are pivotal in contributing to an economic turn-around. The key is in adopting a framework for fast, incremental innovation outcomes with a smart use of resources,” says Rosie Bernard, MD of Innovation Academy.

So, how do senior executives drive innovation in their own organisations? Bernard offers the following tips:


Cultivate the right mindset

As a leader, your responsibility is to make sure you are fostering a culture that encourages innovation. Curiosity and openness to change are key, especially in your leadership team.

Change their mindset – start by changing the language you use when embarking on your innovation journey and help them see that failure is part of your organisation’s journey to success. Rather than failures, they’re opportunities to learn and experiment.


Innovation is a process that everyone can learn

We know that creativity is a basic ingredient for innovation, but what else does your organisation need? Often employees want to innovate, but they might not feel empowered to do so.

Having a clear process in place will provide everyone with the direction and goals needed to successfully innovate. If you are not sure where to start, there are plenty of free resources, such as webinars,online and face-to-face learning tools, including the Innovation Academy’s programmes, that can help you learn how to implement these new processes and procedures.


Small is beautiful – celebrate it!

When innovating, create a multidisciplinary team – from R&D to marketing, product and senior leadership. Teams often think that innovation must be big and radical right from the start.

Doing small things better, more often and more effectively (or differently) is innovation too and helps foster a culture that makes way for the big and the radical in the long run.


Develop internal trailblazers who can drive innovation

Identify individuals within your organisation who have the drive and ambition to help change how your organisation innovates. Look for your Challengers, Disruptors and Innovators, and empower them. Challengers look for tools to make viable creations, Disruptors learn about the latest technologies to help make these creations, while Innovators are looking for guidance, inspiration and the tools to turn vision into reality.

“While these four points provide a good foundation from which to start driving innovation in your organisation, consistency is key to the sustainability and success of any new processes or procedures you implement,” adds Bernard.

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