Category Archives: management of innovation

Innovation – The strategic imperative for relevance

By Henra Mayer
The importance of innovation for the longevity of organisations is a topic discussed by CEO’s and industry experts alike. It is a long-term commitment, a commitment that requires a considerable investment in the future. It is certainly a good conversation to have in prosperous times when targets are made and economic conditions seem more predictable, but what happens to the “we are great at innovation” conversation when things go pear-shaped? Do we throw innovation out of the window when we face the first round of turbulent headwinds?

 Innovation as a strategic competency is crucial for organisations as disruptive change becomes the new normal. Top organisations manage for innovation success as a rule, but it seems that they do even more so in tough economic times.

Towards the end of 2017, a general turbulent year for global economies and one that saw South Africa downgraded to junk status twice, Innocentrix ran a survey to better understand the innovation behaviour of organisations when the going gets tough. Our “Innovating in Turbulent Times” survey reflected the views of over a hundred CEO’s, C-Suite Executives and Senior Managers while we conducted eight face to face interviews with experts from the Telecommunications, ICT, Manufacturing, Mining and Academic industries.

Does innovation management feature in top organisations?   


We know that organisations talk – and write about innovation easily enough. Think innovation as a “company value” or stated in the “vision or mission” of the organisation, but does this translate into real-world innovation success? 
Over 70 percent of the organisations surveyed said that innovation management was an intentional activity while 83 percent said that getting better at innovation or “anticipating disruption” was part of a longer-term strategic goal. The intent was therefore clearly demonstrated by most but marrying this aspiration with execution proved difficult as 59 percent admitted that no formal budget was in place to support innovation intent.

The Focus for Growth

Responding to business challenges in shark invested waters certainly brings a new dimension to the debate but according to respondents, remaining relevant in turbulent times required a focus on the following three things first:
1. Creating new value from existing products and services
Leading organisations  know what they are good at, they focus on their strengths and find new value for customers and stakeholders. They inherently understand their internal environment, as well as their own capabilities and limitations and then focus their efforts where it matters most.   
“Many organisations of our size opt for variety in terms of contracting-in various services to make innovation happen – these services focus on certain expertise like for instance cost-cutting and restructuring, strategic consulting or change management. Winning companies do lose focus in uncertain times and this will have long lasting negative consequences. One should choose two to three core strategies and work on that consistently to really understand what our competitive advantage and core values  are, so that we can focus at outperforming others on those values.”
          Divisional Head of Strategy, Innovation and Change at a large Financial Institution
    2. Designing totally new offerings or business models 
Being aware of industry happenings, finding the next S-Curve and reinventing the old, is an important strategic question for leading organisations. This is a question that they constantly seek answers to in new ways.
“Leaders must look beyond the pain despite major challenges. Reducing costs and retrenchment are immediate knee-jerk reactions and is not sustainable, it is not a well-considered response. True leadership must relook and reorganize but the appetite should always be to create the new, the future of the company and that lies in the realization that an innovation capability must be built that reaches beyond the ordinary.”
         –  Mining Organizational Effectiveness Officer at Large Mining House employing over 72 000 people
    3. Managing for innovation and differentiation
Organisations that give innovation a home, give people a voice and continuously support process and execution related activities, reap the rewards in terms of a culture that drives differentiated value to the market.  
“It’s important to be agile and to be ahead of the wave. This means that we need to build a rapid execution capability and the ability and willingness to invest. Also a willingness to take risks and challenge the status quo. Winning firms innovate constantly and don’t allow themselves to become complacent, but they also understand the need for failure. They experiment and move to adjacencies. A start-up ecosystem and working with our partners ensure impactful collaboration that will deliver on the innovation promise”.
-Chief Digital Officer at a Large Telecommunications Company (Mobile Operator)”

 tt100 supports and rewards excellence

The TT1000 Business Innovation Awards supports innovation leadership. It annually recognises those who manage their organisations on a holistic level, considering technology, innovation, people and systems. It rewards companies who link their technology and innovation practices effectively to become more agile. The appropriate linkage of technology and people practices tend to create better alignment to react to changing circumstances and this ensures that the organisation up-skills (by acquisition or development) the appropriate human capabilities to match, and even exceed the technological needs at any one time.
From here the organisation develops, improves and adapts its technology needs and appropriate innovation is applied to generate real market value and profitability.  TT100 participants receive intensive, customised feedback on how they manage technology, innovation, people and systems, enabling them to improve the way they operate their organisations. A special benefit of the TT100 awards programme is the feedback participants receive from the adjudicators. This takes the form of the verbal feedback received during each adjudication session and an electronic dashboard that each entrant can download after the awards.[1]
It is about speed to market, response to change and an ability to cope with new world flexibility. But none of this will lead to real-world outputs if people do not make it so.  
Organisations also need to match innovation goals with the appropriate investment, building capability, and an innovation pipeline. In a recent piece of research highlighting the gap between innovation aspiration and intent, McKinsey’s talk about the frustration of sustaining innovation to create real value at scale and state that senior executives agree that people and corporate culture are the most important drivers of innovation. They state that the first step is to formally integrate innovation into the strategic-management agenda of senior leaders, to an extent that few companies have done so far. In this way, they say innovation will not only be encouraged but also managed, tracked, and measured as a core element in a company’s growth aspirations. Other steps are to make better use of existing (and often untapped) talent for innovation, without implementing disruptive change programs, by creating the conditions that allow dynamic innovation networks to emerge and flourish. Finally, they can take explicit steps to foster an innovation culture based on trust among employees. In such a culture, people understand that their ideas are valued, trust that it is safe to express those ideas and oversee risk collectively, together with their managers. Such an environment can be more effective than monetary incentives in sustaining innovation.[2]
High growth companies value people and culture, they think ahead and consider agile methodologies that integrate design thinking principles. They know their industries and customers and make innovation a sustainable strategic competency, and this, after all, remains a leadership responsibility.    
For more information on the TT100 Business Awards please click here or contact Da Vinci by emailing To talk innovation and the Winning in Turbulent Times Survey please contact Innocentrix by emailing or by visiting

[1] TT100 profile

How to Create an Innovation Culture that Lasts

By Henra Mayer
Many organisations kick-off an innovation programme with innovation training or brainstorming sessions. Seeing that it is easier to execute, this can be a good way to engage the organisation around innovation intent. A good programme that delivers fresh ideas utilise the power of collaboration to create repeatable differentiated value in the market and one can appreciate that creative brainstorming alone is not going to deliver that type of return. Training might equip innovation teams better for the task at hand, but done in isolation it will not build a sustainable culture of innovation.
The TT100 awards recognises that the management of people includes the human technology interface.  It embraces both the employee and the end user.  It is about the processes that organisations deploy in the development of their human capital, and how they retain and re-skill existing employees, how they incentivise their people and how they plan for succession to ensure organisational longevity. 
Culture is both about people management and technological enablement. Building innovation DNA is painstakingly hard work. It focuses on output and reinforcement of behaviours. Experience often teaches hard lessons like small steps at a time, avoidance of the big bang approach and learning as you go, but some of the most effective approaches to generating a sustainable innovation culture lies in the following, often overlooked activities.

Explaining the what and why

Many organisations have not taken the time to properly and eloquently define what innovation means in their organisations. It is about context and creating a common language that is understood and internalised by all in the organisation. How else will you get people to understand why it is necessary to participate in an innovation programme? Defining what innovation means for your organisation is not only a necessary first step, it is imperative if you want to create strategic alignment and lay the foundation for ultimate innovation success.    

Leadership buy-in

Without visible leadership support and clear communication on the imperative of innovation for the organisation, any effort to transform the culture will be dead in the water. Leadership needs to stand up and be counted, they need to fly the flag high. What type of behaviour is the organisation supporting, punishing or rewarding? Leadership needs to lead innovation, and this applies to all managerial levels. Success very often depends on middle management – who has the responsibility to ensure implementation of the corporate strategy. If middle management is not championing innovation, they risk becoming one of the greatest barriers to innovation in the organisation. Get them on board early with clear objectives and tightly aligned goals, which highlights the next point.

Have a game plan

The development of an innovation strategy is one of the first steps an organisation must take on the road to success. It defines your game plan, sets the rules (will we focus on incremental or radical innovation) what is the investment budget and who is responsible for tracking outcomes? It must outline the organisation’s overall strategic business goals, and show how innovation can be applied to achieve it. A well-defined innovation strategy will focus activities, manage outcomes, fund opportunities, track success and impact culture.

Provide structure and guidance

Innovation needs a home. What do people do with their ideas? The organisation needs an effective, transparent process to support innovation so that ideas can get from people’s heads to implemented value. What type of ideas are you looking for, how will you filter and decide on the best ones, how often will you run innovation challenges and campaigns, how will these align to your strategic objectives? Employees need to know the answers to these questions and have the information required to help them to participate and engage effectively.

Communicate and engage

You need to communicate about the what, why, where, when and how of innovation constantly. If the message is not clear and compelling, staff will not engage and your programme will drown in a  flood of more imminent pressures. This makes innovation reward part of the discussion. Rewarding people for innovation effort is a very important activity. Reward needs to be well thought through and need to encourage the type of behaviour you want people to display.

Celebrate and demonstrate

There will always be nay-sayers, non-believers or stubborn opposers of the new in an organisation. It is important to recognise who these people are and to find ways to get them to work with you. Not everyone will be an avid innovation champion or diligent contributor to the innovation programme,  but a diverse talent pool increases the quality of contributions and the chances of finding something truly impactful. Write up case studies, showcase successes and demonstrate results. It will help you spread the word while showcasing the outcome of your efforts. There is nothing as convincing as real-world results to help you build the business case for innovation.


Connect and Co-create


The days of innovation is seen as a top-secret internal activity is long gone. Isolated innovation effort often misses the mark or lacks the depth that comes from stakeholder engagement and an integration of different points of view. Although many organisations start with internal innovation campaigns to learn the ropes, it is important to consider integrating an outside perspective into the creation of your innovation pipeline. External stakeholders that include customers, suppliers, academia or other experts in industry can add tremendous value to your own effort and help you find an edge far beyond what you would have been able to do on your own. Organisations wining at innovation have embraced formal and informal mechanisms of stakeholder engagement and collaboration, to the benefit of the organisation. 
It is a truly extraordinary time for innovation. Changing business landscapes, disruptive and unconventional market forces and the reality of a true global village presents both opportunity and threat. It will be those organisations that flex their innovation muscle and strengthen collaborative networks that will lead the future.  It is no longer about whether you should invest in building an innovation capability as an organisation, it is about how you are going to win at it.


For more information on the TT100 Business Awards please click here or contact Da Vinci by emailing To talk innovation please contact Innocentrix by emailing or by visiting 

Top Organisations Manage for Growth

Top Organisations Manage for Growth
By Henra Mayer
The world is changing quicker than you can say, Flash Gordon, we talk about Moore’s Law, the role of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) Big Data, Digitisation, Disruptive Business Modelling and then throw into the mix other specifics like FinTech, the potential of the Blockchain and the sharing economy, to name but a few. It’s a jungle out there. Managing the ambidextrous organisation and balancing the demands of the business of today with the business of tomorrow is a skill. Strategic thinking needs to be elevated to the next level, aligned and resourced to focus on driving innovation results. This is a leadership responsibility and in order to benefit fully from the evolving central role of innovation, management must become more responsible for innovation output, and put in place tactical strategies to give it legs. If strategic intent for innovation is not visible, it will go nowhere and innovation results will continue to be just as undetectable. [1]
CEO’s have undeniably turned to innovation in order to address the organisational changes necessary to grow in the future, yet they also feel their organisations are really bad at it. The reason we bother with innovation in the first place is to change the status quo, yet innovation programmes fail more often than they succeed.

Why innovation programmes fail

The process to get ideas to market will differ from organisation to organisation but most challenges in this regard are universal. Think lack of resources, not sufficient budget, inappropriate strategic attention or not enough time to get to innovation as well.
Many organisations talk about innovation with authority, but when it comes to considering a well-defined approach that enables innovation as a strategic lever, talk is often cheap. Getting innovation right requires a demystification of the concept and a seriousness about getting to market, and none of this will happen without doing the groundwork first. Innovation capability, in essence, includes a consideration of the following enablers:
  • Leadership and management – to ensure intent, focus and strategic enablement
  • Organisational structuring– where the organisation puts in place the required processes and structures to support innovation
  • Culture building – a focus on people and building of cultural DNA to make it happen in a sustainable manner
  • Implementation and measurement – getting ideas implemented and tracking returns
  • Effective collaboration – effectively supporting collaboration efforts in various stages of the innovation lifecycle, both internal and external to the organisation


When any of the above activities gets left behind, innovation is stunted and returns are left to chance. But there is more that can be done to increase innovation’s survival rate over the long run.

 Process and Technology

Tools can help you get to implementation faster
Technology and the power it represents opens a new world of potential all around. It is often difficult to navigate this ever-changing landscape but it is necessary to do so with an open mind. Today’s leaders have a myriad of options. Decision-making must consider fit-for-purpose tools in support of strategic objectives, the streamlining of processes and ever-changing requirements that requires flexibility. The focus is on enablement by means of strengthening organisational technological capability and driving results. Technology enables efficient processes and for innovation to flourish a finely tuned, transparent innovation process is necessary. Consider idea flow, internal as well as external participation, engagement, gamification, teams and the issue of effective collaboration.


The competitive advantage is effective teams that bring projects to market.
Ideas are just that. Innovation success will depend on your ability to harness the power of people to bring those ideas to market in a feasible way. Organisations good at innovation knows that it must come from various sources, that it depends on diverse teams, internal as well as external to the organisation. They understand that this will lead to an outcome where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Innovation happens at the periphery, thinking in isolation will not yield the same results.  
Although the world of business constantly talks about innovation and disruption – the challenge of doing this successfully is often not linked to a shortage of ideas. It is about getting the good ideas to market and doing so consistently.

Looking back to look forward

It is important for organisations to look back at the past, in order to learn from mistakes and capitalise on learnings. In order to remain relevant and stay ahead of the curve, it is also essential to understand what needs to be done today in order to prepare for tomorrow. No one has a crystal ball to predict what will happen next but future foresight is essential for organisations in the fight for relevance. Many companies, once having become dominant in their industries, lost their competitive edge and their desire and belief in the need to innovate. Think Blockbusters and Blackberry, beloved giants of industry that fell quickly and unceremoniously.


Innovation success will require a focus on doing the right things, but will also ask the organisation to consciously learn and assess. What are your core capabilities, do they still serve you and what else do you need to learn? It is important to understand the competitive forces in your environment and the trends in terms of new and emerging business models required to deal with it. Despite the time and energy required for the day-to-day operations of the business, organisations must develop the commitment and discipline to look to the future to recognize trends and ensure that they continually react and innovate.
True leaders have the ability to inspire people to great achievement. They keep their fingers on the pulse of progress and diligently lead their organisations towards the pinnacle of innovation excellence.



[1] Adapted from blogpost “Why the implementation of ideas remain a corporate struggle” – H Mayer

Dynamic mix of new and established innovators take 2017 TT100 awards

South Africa’s small community of technology and business innovators is growing. Some fresh new faces have appeared alongside experienced innovators at the 2017 Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards.

“What we find especially exciting is how emerging and small enterprises – the engines of growth – are not just coming up with great ideas but executing them with insight and precision,” says Professor Bennie Anderson, CEO of The Da Vinci Institute, School of Managerial Leadership.

Newcomers to the awards, which have been running for 26 years, include I AM Emerge, whose Vuleka app empowers township businesses to jointly make bulk purchases, and Passion4Performance, whose online assessment tool is revolutionising training and enabling learners to track their careers from school to retirement.

Among the new faces in the category for medium enterprises is Space Advisory, whose Gecko Imager is blazing new trails in satellite imagery and storage. The imager uses data streaming to and from satellites to capture images at the super-speedy rate of five frames per second.

 A newcomer in the large category is Indian company Nelito Systems, which provides credit facilities to unbanked people in rural areas.

“We welcome the entrants who have won awards for the first time and at the same time congratulate companies who have won TT100 awards in the past and were back again this year,” Professor Anderson says. “That they keep returning demonstrates the value they extract from the TT100 awards and their ability to constantly improve the way they manage technology, innovation, people and systems (TIPS™).”

Winners with staying power

These “repeat” winners include X/procure Software, whose online procurement portal processes over R10 billion worth of pharmaceutical orders a year, payroll software company Accsys, and Durban-based electronics company PFK Electronics.

In total, 28 winners were presented with trophies at a gala dinner held at the Johannesburg Country Club on Wednesday, 15 November 2017, which was attended by business innovators, industry captains, government officials, researchers, and academics.

For the 2017 TT100 awards, The Da Vinci Institute collaborated with several long-time partners, notably the Department of Science and Technology, Eskom, Blank Canvas International and Innocentrix.

Giving the keynote address at the 2017 Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards, Minister of Science and Technology Mrs Naledi Pandor said she was impressed with the quality of business innovation entries in this year’s competition, which was encouraging given the National Development Plan’s (NDP) objective of turning South Africa into a high-growth, employment generating, knowledge-based economy.

Minister Pandor said the long-standing alliance that the DST has maintained with the TT100 awards programme was central to the ongoing efforts to strengthen public-private partnerships in support of South African technology-based businesses.

“Such partnerships not only enable awareness creation of business technology development initiatives and opportunities, but also profile the innovation prowess of South African tech companies to local and international markets,” she said.

Identifying role models

Running since 1991, the aim of the TT100 awards programme is to promote the culture of innovation amongst large, medium, small and emerging businesses.

The programme seeks to identify role models within the management of innovation and technology domains who have demonstrated their excellence in co-creating new workplace realities.

“The awards do not judge the worthiness of new technologies, but rather focus on how organisations manage the process of creating new technologies and innovations, and to what extent they are doing it sustainably and systemically,” Prof Anderson said.

“We have become aware that unless organisations manage their technology, innovation, people, and systems, and connect the relationships between them, innovation does not come to fruition, its commercialisation is not sustainable, and its socio-economic impact negligible,” he added.

The 2017 awards attracted a total of 379 entries in seven categories:

·         Management of technology
·         Management of innovation
·         Management of people
·         Management of systems
·         Sustainability
·         Overall excellence
·         Innovation concepts

The Innovation Concepts category was introduced for the first time this year. “With the addition of this category to the TT100 awards programme, we are hoping to connect the innovators to venture capitalists and other potential funders to enable them to commercialise their concepts and take these promising ventures to the market,” Prof Anderson said.

How the winners were selected

A total of 91 category finalists were selected following a rigorous face-to-face adjudication process, which culminated in 28 category winners being selected as the top-performing innovators of 2017.

In the new Innovation Concepts category, I AM Emerge came out tops among emerging entrants with its Vuleka App, which facilitates the bulk purchase of goods for township businesses.

The small business award in this category went to Tabula Rasa Investments Private Limited with their Pundutso Musha (PDC).

The winner in the medium enterprise category was Space Advisory for their Gecko Imager, while India’s Nelito Systems Ltd came out tops in the large category for their rural credit facilities to the unbanked.

In the Management of Technology category, Brucol Global Development (Pty) Ltd was the winner among emerging enterprises, while Cura Risk Management Software (Pty) Ltd took top honours among small enterprises. The winner in the category for medium enterprises was Global Track, while Altech Netstar was the award for large companies.

In Management of People the winners were: emerging category – ThisIsMe; small category – X/Procure Software SA; medium category – Accsys (Pty) and large category – Nelito Systems Ltd.
Winners in the Management of Systems: emerging category – Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd; small category – X/Procure Software SA (Pty) Ltd; medium category – Space Advisory and large category is PFK Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

Top honours in the Management of Innovation went to: emerging category – Brucol Global Development; small category – HearX Group; medium category – SSG Consulting and large category – PFK Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

The winners for Overall Excellence were: emerging category – Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd; small category – HearX Group; medium category – SSG Consulting and large category – PFK Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

When it came to Excellence in Sustainability the winners were: emerging category – I Am Emerge and Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd; small category – X/Procure Software SA (Pty) Ltd and Fetch Them; medium category – SSG Consulting and large category – Altech Netstar Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

A number of entrants won more than one category, such as Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd, which came out tops among emerging companies in Overall Excellence, Excellence in Sustainability and Management of Systems.
The TT100 programme not only benefits the winners and finalists, but all participants. Everyone receives intensive, customised feedback on how they manage technology, innovation, people and systems, enabling them to improve the way they operate.

Winners and finalists becoming part of the TT100 community are invited to participate in TT100 events, including business forums held jointly with government and partners involved in promoting business innovation, particularly the DST.

Top Innovators Set Alight Da Vinci’s TT100 Business Innovation Awards

Johannesburg, 15 November 2017

Top innovators have received high praises from the Minister of Science and Technology Mrs Naledi Pandor at the 2017 Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards, showcasing how South Africa is building an inclusive innovation system through growing support for grassroots innovators and developing local innovation.

In total, 28 winners were presented by Minister Pandor with trophies at a gala dinner held at the Johannesburg Country Club on Wednesday, 15 November 2017, which was attended by business innovators, industry captains, government officials, researchers, and academics.

Minister Pandor, who gave the keynote address, expressed her admiration for the quality of business innovation entries in this year’s competition, an achievement she has described as encouraging and in line with the National Development Plan’s (NDP) objective of turning South Africa into a high-growth, employment generating, knowledge-based economy.

Minister Pandor said the long-standing alliance that the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has maintained with the TT100 awards programme was central to the ongoing efforts to strengthen public-private partnerships in support of South African technology-based businesses.

“Such partnerships not only enable awareness creation of business technology development initiatives and opportunities but also profile the innovation prowess of SA tech companies to local and international markets.”

“This is in line with the NDP’s recognition of the importance of innovation as laying the foundations for more intensive improvements in business productivity and a more intensive national pursuit of the SA knowledge-based economy,” said Minister Pandor.

The 2017 TT100 awards were held under the auspices of The Da Vinci Institute School of Managerial Leadership, which has partnered with the DST, MTN, and Eskom to make the TT100 innovation competition possible.

The TT100 awards programme has been running since 1991 and its aim is to promote the culture of innovation amongst large, medium, and small businesses.

“The objective of the TT100 awards is to promote the importance of developing an innovative management ecosystem, which can help boost innovation outputs in our companies in a manner that impacts positively on socio-economic development and the bottom lines of our companies, whether small, medium or big,” said Professor Bennie Anderson, CEO of The Da Vinci Institute School of Managerial Leadership.
There were 379 entries in the following 6 categories: management of technology; management of innovation; management of people; management of systems; sustainability; and innovation concepts.

A total of 91 category finalists were selected following a rigorous face-to-face adjudication process, which culminated in a total of 28 category winners being selected as the top-performing innovators in 2017.

Four industry winners representing emerging, medium, small, and large enterprises were selected, who respectively received the DST Director-General Award and Minister Award for Overall Excellence.

“This year, we have added the Innovation Concepts category to assist in raising the profiles of innovators who have outstanding concepts, but don’t have the funding to commercialise their concepts.”

“With the addition of this category to the TT100 awards programme, we are hoping to connect the innovators to venture capitalists and other potential funders to enable them to commercialise their concepts and take these promising ventures to the market,” said Professor Anderson.

The 2017 TT100 awards also received a resounding support from Kammy Young, Innovation COE Manager at Eskom, who concurs that the programme will go a long way towards driving socio-economic development in South Africa.

“Innovation is one of Eskom’s values. We strive to embrace new processes and technology to improve business efficiencies, while investing in science, engineering, technology and innovation in the country, with the aim to grow the economy in support of socio-economic development,” said Young.

The TT100 programme provides enormous benefits to winners and finalists. TT100 participants receive intensive, customised feedback on how they manage technology, innovation, people and systems, enabling them to improve the way they operate their organisations.

Winners and finalists receive the additional benefit of becoming part of the TT100 community and being invited to participate in TT100 events, including business forums held jointly with government and partners involved in promoting business innovation, particularly the DST.
About the Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards Programme
The Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards Programme is South Africa’s foremost business Awards programme. TT100 has been recognising innovation and technological prowess in South African companies for more than 25 years. In going forward, it is focused on identifying true managerial leaders who through innovation, tenacity and a belief in people, have been able to take their organisations to new levels of competitiveness.

The programme seeks to identify role models within the management of innovation and technology domains who have demonstrated their excellence in co-creating new workplace realities.
For media queries contact:
Alfa Destiny Communications

COLONYHQ – managing innovation: Go big or stay home


#TT1002016 Winner of the Henra Mayer Award for Excellence in the Management of Innovation

Category for small enterprises

Go big or stay home

First South Africa, then the world. Armed with an innovation that’s already disrupting the way local radio stations interact with their listeners, COLONYHQ is intent on broadcasting its presence globally.

“Global domination,” is how Claira Mallett, head of Client Partnerships at COLONY, puts it – and while there may be a touch of humour there, she’s not entirely joking. So unique is the company’s latest innovation that – for the time being at least – it has little or no competition.

Called COLONYLive, it was launched in 2016 as an integrated messaging tool that lets listeners engage with radio stations in whatever way they wish – social, mobile or instant messaging – instead of limiting them to calling or texting. Apart from encouraging better interaction on air, the tool also uses data analytics to help broadcasters get closer to their listeners and gives advertisers direct connection points to potential buyers.

Until now, that has been a challenge for radio. “Radio in its current mindset only offers advertisers a reach and frequency opportunity. But in the era in which we live, where targeted advertising and measurement are the buzzwords, radio just cannot compete,” says CEO Marco Broccardo.

“So, the fact remains, direct and indirect competition will place further pressure on stations to up their game and start batting faster. For radio to remain relevant and profitable, it needs to stop thinking about selling spots based only on reach and frequency. Instead, they need to think about understanding the audiences they own in order to monetise them on platforms they don’t own.”   

First radio, then TV…

Algoa FM, which has been among the first of the radio stations to use COLONYLive, has given a ringing endorsement of it: “COLONYLive has within 24 hours of being launched on-air completely transformed the mood of the station,” says the station’s Chris Wright in a written testimonial. “We have become instantly very accessible to our listeners and their ability to provide quality on-air and online content has never been easier.”

Says COLONY’s Mallett: “We’ve built something that is really, honestly disruptive to the radio market, and we did it by finding the itches – the pain points – in the radio space. We then took on key radio stations and literally built the platform around their needs. We work in partnership with our clients, seeing ourselves not as a provider but as an invisible extension to their team.”

While its heartbeat is in the radio space, COLONYLive has been designed to be just as applicable to all media types looking to engage and monetise their audiences, with TV being the next natural extension.

Mallett says COLONYLive is a logical – yet radical – step on the company’s continuum as a behind-the-scenes technology enabler of client campaigns and competitions.

“Diversifying our core campaigns platform with a version specialised for the broadcast industry has allowed us to work side by side with our customers to build a product so world-class that we have already initiated launching into the United States.”

Making innovation work

COLONY instinctively runs according to the TIPS principles, she says, inherently weaving innovation into the technology it creates and the people and systems required to commercialise.

It is constantly scanning its markets for itches that need to be scratched and does not shy away from making the necessary investments. “Innovation comes at a price.  When you are developing something from scratch, from doing the research to building, testing and taking it to market, investment is key.”

So is a questioning, inquisitive nature. “We have inquiring minds and we are always working to make to make our products better. No product will ever be finished.”

Misfits and the power of collective genius

Systemic Logic Innovation Agency

#TT1002016 Winner of the 2016 Blank Canvas International Award for Sustainability

Category for small enterprises

Misfits and the power of collective genius

Individually, the people who work at Systemic Logic Innovation Agency are a “bunch of misfits” – their own choice of words – but collectively, they’re a formidable team. “Innovation has become a team sport. It is the many little things done by many people that make a big difference. It is where enlightened trial and error trumps the workings of a lone genius,” the business incubator and accelerator services company said in its TT100 entry.

The adjudicators were certainly impressed with Innovation Agency’s clear vision, range of technologies and the way it has integrated its processes to form a cohesive organisation. Highly commendable, they said, was the patent the company has been granted for its innovation implementation approach.

Patenting is often a good indicator of business sustainability as it implies uniqueness that is protected from copycatting, enabling the holder to maintain its competitive edge.

The adjudicators also liked Innovation Agency’s strong focus on implementation, especially its emphasis on helping clients turn ideas into reality. “We bridge the gap between great ideas and real results,” the company says, referring to this space as the “dark side” of innovation.

It helps shed light on this dark side by offering incubator and accelerator services such as advice on how to turn good ideas into “great ideas with true commercial potential”, assisting with market research, business development and innovation strategy, and running practical workshops that expose clients’ employees to innovation design thinking and methodologies.

Innovation Agency works with established businesses wanting to fast-track product innovations, as well as with start-ups in the critical early stages and small businesses seeking to grow into successful sustainable enterprises.

“Business incubators are the lifeline of innovation, especially in social settings where support for start-up businesses is limited,” says the company, which has so far helped accomplish over 200 of its partners’ major innovation goals.

And it all comes back to a belief that innovation takes place through the collective effort of many people. “Ideas are everywhere. It is about our collective genius … Because no one is smarter than everyone.”

Leading Innovation

Leading Innovation
By Henra Mayer 
Da Vinci Head of Faculty: Management of Innovation
The significance of innovation is widely recognised as an important business driver in a dynamic world of rapid change and shifting business models. Many organisations invest in innovation initiatives to create more competitive and resilient organisations, but how to continuously produce repeatable, strategically significant outcomes remains a challenge for many. 

Intent needs to be supported with effective innovation practices, and at its core, this includes a focus on innovation leadership. It invariably points to the leader’s ability to enable a strategic vision for entrenching an end-to-end innovation capability within the organisation.

The annual Da Vinci Technology Top 100 (TT100) Business Innovation Awards programme was launched in 1991 to create an awareness of the role of technology and innovation leadership in South Africa.  It employs the TIPS™ model, which refers to the inter-relationships between how we manage our technology, innovation and people in a systemic way to enhance sustainable development within the organisation.

In essence, this model acts as a good starting point for focusing the leader’s role as orchestrator of innovation by integrating management disciplines that considers:

The Management of Technology (MoT)

The management of technology is all about the ‘tools’ and metrics organisations use to gain competitive advantage.  Simplistically it is “a way of doing things better” and may involve the use of anything from computers and hi-tech, to simple hand-held tools.  In this context, it refers to the small “t” in technology where organisations manage their technology to best position their products or services to maximise their market share.

The Management of Innovation (MoI)

The management of innovation is about how an organisation stimulates and capitalises on the ideation process to develop an innovative product or service which demonstrates either commercial or social value. It’s about hard metrics such as income generated from new products, processes or services as well as success rates in commercialising new offerings, coupled with the softer side of change management, co-creation and employee engagement.

The Management of People (MoP)

The management of people is all about the human technology interface.  It embraces both the employee and the end user.  It is about the processes that organisations deploy in the development of their human capital, and how they retain and re-skill existing employees, how they incentivise their people and how they plan for succession to ensure organisational longevity. 
The Management of Systems (MoS)

This is the process of synthesis, where systemic integration of all organisational activities and performance is used to solve unique problems, and where a hyper-competitive redesign of the landscape occurs. This includes internal synovation and organisational ecology that allows the parts to become greater than the whole.

It is evident from the TT1000 research results gathered over the past 25 years that companies who link their technology and innovation practices effectively tend to become more agile. Agility in this sense refers to the link between people and innovation practices so that employees become engaged in seeking solutions at work.  The appropriate linkage of technology and people practices tend to create better alignment to react to changing circumstances and this ensures that the organisation up-skills (by acquisition or development) the appropriate human capabilities to match, and even exceed the technological needs at any one time. From here the organisation develops, improves and adapts its technology needs and appropriate innovation is applied to generate real market value and profitability. 

It is about speed to market, response to change and an ability to cope with new world flexibility. But none of this will lead to real-world outputs if people do not make it so. People and innovation need to be managed in such a way that it impacts on the commitment and motivation of people in the workplace so that people take personal initiative and accountability. The TIPS™ model is graphically depicted below.
Figure 1: The TIPS™ model used with the TT100 Awards
In a sense, the TIPS™ framework could serve as a meta-framework for managerial leaders within the workplace, but leadership is about more than frameworks. It talks to the heart of an organisation.  

In the 2016 South African Innovation League Awards, administered annually by Innocentrix, innovation leadership emerged as South Africa’s strongest capability. It seems to be driven as a clear outcome by the majority of organisations who believe that overall strategic objectives are translated into innovation objectives. 

Although executives are demonstrating an intent by aligning innovation outcomes with overall organisational objectives and supporting tactical thinking with concrete strategies, leadership intent alone is not going to make innovation happen. Success lies in the execution of intent and while organisations are willing and able, it is clear from the League results that much room is left for improvement as weaknesses in execution coupled with ad-hoc activities and misaligned interdependencies needs attention.[1]

Effective approaches for leading innovation could include enabling a strategic innovation vision, a focus on the customer and creating a climate of reciprocal trust. Add to this the importance of communication, the power of persuasion and an emphasis on speed[2] and it becomes clear that the role of the leader is more about being an orchestrator and supportive enabler of success. If the point is to foster organisations that are willing and able to innovate over the long haul, then tomorrow’s leaders of innovation must be identified and developed today. Great leaders of innovation, see their role not as take-charge direction setters but as creators of a context in which others make innovation happen. That shift in understanding is critical to fostering the next generation of innovation leaders and must permeate the organisation and its talent management practices.[3]

In the end, leaders who do innovation well focus on providing an enabling environment,  they create an open culture and inspire an engaged workforce, they act with strategic intelligence and foresight.  They get the experts together and connect from ground level up to forge relationships within the innovation eco-system on a local, regional and global level. Inspiring leaders provide opportunity, mentorship, and empowerment and they act with integrity and courage in integrating these values across the organisation.

For more information on the Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards Programme and to enter the Awards programme, visit or email To talk innovation and the SA Innovation League, please contact Innocentrix by emailing or by visiting

[1] SA Innovation League Report (2016) by Innocentrix (
[2] Research: 10 Traits of Innovative Leaders (2014) by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman (2014): Harvard Business Review
[3] Collective Genius (2014) Linda A. Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, Kent Lineback: Harvard Business Review

Kirkonsult (Pty) Ltd: Keeping food and beverage-making clean and simple

Kirkonsult (Pty) Ltd

Winner of the Eskom Award for Excellence in the Management of Systems
Category for emerging enterprises

Keeping food and beverage-making clean and simple

When opening a bottle of beer or a can of soda, few consumers pause to wonder about the cleanness of the equipment used to make it. They shouldn’t have to: the laws around the cleaning of manufacturing facilities for food and drinks are stringent, and manufacturers are obliged to test their equipment for residual contaminants.

The downside for manufacturers is that it may take up to two or three hours to clean the equipment before starting on a new batch of product, and four to five days before the microbiological assessment results from the last batch come back. In the meantime, the products they have just manufactured sit in a warehouse under quarantine for four or five days until the equipment and process under which they were made receive the all-clear from the laboratory.

Through the ingenuity of Dr Robin Kirkpatrick of Kirkonsult, the time taken to test for possible contaminants can now be drastically shortened.  He has developed and patented Carbotect™ to do the same job in a matter of minutes.

Colour-coded test delivers quick results

“It’s a quick, colour-coded diagnostic test that picks up residual contaminants in the equipment or the water used to clean it. My technology can pick up extremely low levels of contaminants and it can do it within five minutes instead of five days,” says Kirkpatrick, who originally trained as a vet before switching to Microbiology, in which he has a PhD. He was also one of the brains behind the development in South Africa of Radical Water, which uses electro-activation to treat water and is now used worldwide.

Back to food and beverage manufacturing and the cleaning of equipment: Kirkpatrick says that manufacturers use high-pressure, piping hot water and various chemicals to clean their equipment, and at the end of the cleaning process, use more clean water to flush everything out. “That final water is tested to see if it is clear of any residue.”

Apart from affording a rapid and highly sensitive result for the detection of organic contaminants, Carbotect is simple to use and can be administered by a relatively unskilled worker. “I developed the solution in close association with South African Breweries, whose requirements were for a low skills-based, rapid and reliable piece of technology,” he says.

Plenty of scope for expansion

His technology is well suited to other high-risk, perishable products too, from fruit juices, soft drinks, soups and sauces to pharmaceutical syrups and other liquid-based preparations. It has also been used at membrane-based water treatment plants.

There is also scope to upscale this colour-based diagnostic system for more sophisticated settings, such as by digitalising it, as well as the potential for growth beyond South Africa’s borders. “I am now finalising the product for the international market,” says Kirkpatrick.

He is on a constant quest to improve and enhance Carbotect, which was in development for several years and went through a number of versions before he was satisfied it was ready to patent and trademark. “I never stop questioning the status quo and looking for new avenues and new opportunities for fresh insights. So far, I have barely scratched the surface.”

Innovation Systems – Making Sense of the Noise

Innovation Systems – Making Sense of the Noise

Technology is recognised as an enabler of innovation and growth. Having a software tool, specifically the right software tool, can greatly accelerate your innovation results by creating an easily accessible and self-sustaining platform for ideation and innovation management. Over recent years, however, the innovation technology systems market exploded and an influx of players are contributing to an ever increasing maze of offerings with functionality that features internal and external collaboration capability, enterprise communication tools and in some instances the integration of various ecosystems for co-creation.

The result is an increasingly growing and crowded landscape of innovation management tools that are becoming more and more difficult to navigate – a trend that is expected to continue as new and existing offerings incorporate more radical technologies such as artificial intelligence and crypto currencies.

The current innovation technology market is estimated at over $200 million and boasts up to 250 vendors (and counting), almost doubling its size in the last two and a half years. In a fragmented innovation system market differentiation is not easy to come by. This does not come as good news for increasingly frustrated customers trying to make sense of it all. The very reason the innovation system vendors make a case for their software (to help organisations innovate and differentiate) might become a paradox in itself that begs the same question from them – how are innovation technology vendors creating new value and differentiation in an increasingly dynamic market?

At Innocentrix we understand this problem as we work with both vendors and clients to make innovation intentional, repeatable and supportive of next level growth. One solution will not universally fit all needs. Organisations need to understand the functionality on offer, how it fits the organisation’s own requirements, the financial and business models available as well as how this aligns with current innovation maturity levels and future goals.

Where to start is not always easy to figure out. The aim of this article is to offer a practical point of departure to assist organisations to navigate this landscape better.

But we can Build?

Customers increasingly look for a voice in the development of a solution that best meets their needs and prefers “exceptional service” as opposed to traditionally offered technology services. This might be one of the reasons investigating in-house development is often one of the first activities undertaken by organisations when the need for an innovation management system has been identified. It is possible that certain organisations by the nature of what they do have the ability to develop in-house and it seems like an attractive option when one ponders the crowded innovation technology landscape mentioned above. Add to this foreign currency hurdles if you are considering best of breed international solutions that also naturally comes with geographical and time zone challenges. The other reality is the speed of change, the impact of digital innovation and the requirement to have to run hard just to stand still, for what could be considered to be a non-core activity. Building you own is not impossible but with the rise of mobility and SaaS offerings, it is becoming increasingly challenging to do so well. 

Apart from functionality and development costs, organisations need to consider time available for development as well as servicing the organisation’s future innovation aspirations.

Other considerations should be:
Does your development team understand the organisation’s technical and innovation-critical requirements to enable it effectively? Can you map the minimal viable product (MVP) and do you have a good understanding of the future roadmap for the product? Moreover, does the development team really understand innovation and innovation software development?

Does your organisation have the required technical in-house experience to deliver a solution that is reasonably comparable to what is available off the shelf right now? Will you have continued access to these skills in the future and do they have the time available to bring the product to the organisation reasonably quickly?  

Innovation software vendors have been in the game for several years, they understand the dynamics of the market and are trusted by some of the world’s largest companies. This is their core competency, the reason they exist. It is in their interest to remain relevant and at the forefront of best practice in innovation management. Consider the internal stakeholder challenge as the organisation has to continually justify the investment and when it becomes a cost/price game the 3rd party vendor has the scope to offer compellingly lower prices.

Total cost of ownership
It is necessary to consider the complexity of total cost of ownership. The allure of building your own is attractive when one considers the ubiquity of the tools and seemingly low barriers of investment, but what costs are associated with personnel, ongoing maintenance, and continuous development. Opportunity costs if this is not a core competency for the organisation also need to be considered.

Building an in-house solution is possible but it is not straightforward. Initially and at low levels of innovation maturity in-house built systems can serve their purpose, but they soon fall by the wayside as maturity levels and the complexity of needed functionality increases. Another challenge is that in house development can become someone’s pet project. Organisations often fail to maintain their systems due to a change in roles and responsibilities over time, resulting in an eventual waste of not only money but time as well.

So how do you make sense of it all?

It is important to select a fit for purpose tool to fulfil the organisation’s objectives in support of its innovation business case, and to be able to adapt as the organisation matures on its innovation journey, or as needs become more varied.

Answering the question is, in essence, coming back to basics. Innovation is a business necessity but it is important to understand what you are trying to do and what good looks like for you. What are the organisation’s aspirations in this regard? Once that is defined, the road to find the best tool and operating model might be less complex.   

The Forrester Wave Report (2016)[1] used 26 criteria to evaluate a list of 15 current Innovation Management vendors and grouped them according to (1) current offering in the market (2) strategy of the vendor and (3) market presence. This resulted in a list of leaders and strong performers that according to the report represent strengths and trusted expertise in the field. But the picture is much more complex as the authors allude to in the introductory contextualisation.

Consider the following nuances.

Technology firms operate on very similar business models

Industry operating models chase brutal quarterly targets, a maximisation of licenses sold to customers and discounts for multi-year deals.  Painstakingly logged and managed, sales discussions will focus on these main aspirations which can be counter to client needs. Continuity with staff presents another challenge. Direct dealings with a vendor can become problematic as staff turnover impacts on relationships and the history with the vendor. Consistency becomes a moving target. One can argue that the technology sector is still in its formative years. Standards and interoperability across platforms are limited, with the story often being about the ‘best’ widget in town. Some have compelling features that are more influenced by the development of user interface design, but in many cases, there are much maturing to do. 

Many organisations want a voice to get what they view as valuable. They prefer more flexibility in their engagement models with vendors, as the needs of the organisation will change with a maturing innovation capability and as new learnings are integrated.  Which brings us to the next point.

An innovation system does not create an innovative culture

There are many great systems out there. None of them is going to guarantee that innovation work in your organisation. Your system will most likely become your cornerstone for success and enable innovation if managed well, but your people and doing the right things will be your secret sauce. You will need to consider many things like strategy, leadership, management, effective communication, impacting on engagement, measurement of outcomes, ROI and much more. It is important that you manage this from the beginning.

The need for partners

Many vendors have not eloquently addressed the need for partners. Strategic services are being offered by some whilst sharing their view of best practice for the use of their solution with customers is part of the package. But as put forward by Forrester’s report, few innovation management solution vendors can address wider business transformation requirements alone and need to work with outside consulting partners. Recent partnerships between KPMG and Idea Factory and IdeaScale and the content platform play to this point. It will, however, require vendors to actively build and contribute to the market in a collaborative manner. In too many instances the opposite is still true and vendors are found to dilute the innovation ecosystem instead of positively and actively contributing to it. The winners in the innovation systems market will most likely be those that recognise the exponential power and value of true collaboration to the benefit of all parties, especially their client’s. The most valuable partnerships will be those between a vendor and a partner offering expert strategic innovation expertise. Trust, ethics and respect still make good business sense and often provides an indication of vendor reliability. Choose your vendor well in this regard.

The market, maturity and attitude

In all of this, however, the client has a responsibility too. Do you have real strategic intent for innovation in the organisation?  In other words, do you have a budget in support of building an innovation capability and culture, and are you open to working with your suppliers to make it work? It might seem like an obvious question but it is an important one. Why invest in an innovation management system if you do not intend to enable it. Tripping over dollars to pick up pennies does not make sense, especially in this scenario. Your innovation team, if you have one, needs to be empowered for success. They cannot be expected to go at it alone. That is setting them up for failure from the beginning. And just like your vendors and your strategic partners, it is necessary to pull together a dynamic innovation team internally as well. This is no place for ego’s, immature jockeying for power or feeling intimidated by partners or team members for fear of being stood up for expertise. You will need to collaborate to be successful. Your external team are there in support of your success. If your innovation team cannot appreciate this your efforts will be compromised and your investment will most probably be wasted.  Take heed, this is a leadership responsibility.

So when starting out on the road in evaluating innovation management systems, think further than the obvious. Whichever way you dress it up, innovation is a complex coming together of multiple capabilities. Getting it right is hard and finding the right solution takes effort.

This article attempted to call out a number of the key tenets to consider when setting off on the journey.  Like in all relationships, it is often the little foxes in the vineyard that can destroy something good.

This article is written by Mrs Henra Mayer, CEO of Innocentrix and Da Vinci Head of Faculty related to the Management of Innovation.

About Innocentrix

Innocentrix is an ideas and innovation company. We help our clients to deliver the future. We improve existing offerings or bring to market new business models, projects, products or services. We help our clients to Create, Engage and Deliver. Find us at

[1] The Forrester Wave™: Innovation Management Solutions, Q2 2016