Category Archives: School of managerial leadership

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 

Da Vinci @ Work: Meet Jason Potgieter

No time to waste when productivity is at stake

If there’s one thing that irks BCom graduate Jason Potgieter, it’s time spent unproductively. “That’s my pet peeve; I can’t stand it. There are a multitude of deadlines here and if you don’t make the most of your time, it annoys me. The issue of productivity stood out for me straight away,” he says, referring to the *topic of the work-based challenge he completed as part of his BCom degree in business management, specialising in supply chain management.

True to his nature, Jason wasted no time in assessing the state of productivity at the Durban branch of international courier company Seabourne Express, where he is a branch manager.

Measuring productivity

“I explained to everyone at the branch that we were going to measure our productivity to see how we were doing and to make the best of what we have. I then sent out a questionnaire to all the staff to gauge their understanding of their productivity and where they are at. I also held individual meetings with the supervisors, because a lot of people will write what you want to hear, as opposed to the true state of productivity during the day,” he says.

His analysis and scoring of the data resulted in staff being grouped into three categories of productivity: unproductive, semi-productive and productive.

After checking the results for accuracy and reliability, Jason used the branch’s visual display system to show a flowchart of productivity at the branch, showing each person’s score. “I also sent out tips and suggestions on how to improve productivity during the day.”

For example, he sent out suggestions on how to delegate and manage time, and how to capitalise on good moods to get more done – all guidelines he picked up while doing research for his BCom degree.

Following up and tracking progress

A few weeks later, Jason sent out a second staff survey, went through the analysis and scoring process, again and again, displayed the new results for everyone to see. The results were positive: some of the lower scorers had moved up and some of the top scorers were under pressure to retain their strong positions, says Jason. “For those who like the recognition for all their hard work, there’s nothing better than having your name at the top of the list.”

His managing director was at his oral defence when he presented his results and asked afterwards when his system was going to be implemented at Seabourne Express branches nationally.

“That’s what we are currently doing,” Jason says. “The first set of questions have just come back and are being analysed, and by the end of the year, we will be able to gauge productivity countrywide.:

*The formal title of Jason Potgieter’s work-based challenge is, “Identifying low productivity and the tools used to manage productivity”.

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

X/procure®: Small company, big impact

X/procure® Software (Pty) Ltd

#TT1002016 Winner of the 2016 Rica Viljoen Award for Excellence in the Management of People

Category for small enterprises

Taking the pain out of procurement for pharmacies

Running out of stock is a nightmarish scenario for pharmacies large and small, whose customers cannot wait until the shelves are replenished to have their prescriptions filled. In South Africa, the advent of electronic procurement has taken much of the pain out of the supply chain and one company, in particular, X/procure®, is helping pharmacies keep their house in order.

“About 76% of South African pharmacies use our ordering portal, which processes around 500 000 orders a month and R10 billion worth of orders a year, consisting of scheduled, over-the-counter and front-shop items,” says JD Henderson, X/procure® managing director.

The portal’s popularity is easily explained. It seamlessly connects pharmacies to the wholesalers who supply them and provides almost instantaneous feedback on whether the required product is available.

If that product happens to be an originator drug (the original patented version), X/procure®’s portal will instantly display an advert of the generic alternative. “This is unique to our system and is a very important feature because legislation dictates that pharmacies must always recommend the cheaper, generic alternative to an originator drug,” Henderson says.

The ordering portal also helps pharmacies improve their stock management. “Our software provides a clear history of what, when and how a product was ordered and alerts the client to any anomalies,” he says. “If you typically order 10 packets of a particular product but are suddenly ordering 100, the system would query that.”

Then there’s the portal’s ability to help pharmacies buy front-shop items (tissues, cosmetics, vitamin supplements and the like) at the lowest prices. “When ordering from multiple wholesalers, the pharmacy can see the prices from all the wholesalers and choose the lowest-priced options,” says Henderson. “That’s a major advantage because pharmacies can only make a profit on front-shop products, not on the medicines they dispense.”

Small company, big impact

Despite the huge volumes of orders that X/procure®’s procurement portal handles daily, it has a staff of only 38, many of them being technical resources and all of them hand-picked for their skills and their compatibility with the company culture.

“We employ like-minded people with the same values,” Henderson says. “No matter how great your skills are if you don’t share our values we don’t hire you.”

Those values include putting the customer first (“That sounds like a cliché but we really go out of our way to make the customer feel like the only person in the world.”), under promising and over delivering (“If we say something will be ready at 8am tomorrow, it will be.”) and honesty and integrity (“We will tell you upfront if we can’t do something for you.”)

Playing for points

Innovation, too, is a core value. “It’s important that everyone on the team is part of the innovation process, so we’ve created an in-house portal where people can log new ideas,” Henderson says. “You earn points for submitting an idea – whether it’s good, bad or ugly – and more points if our innovation panel picks your idea. If it’s taken to development you earn more points, and when it’s commercialised, you are involved in that – and you earn more points.”

At the end of the year, staff members redeem their points for PlayStation games, LCD screens and movie tickets. “But if you don’t want to redeem your points, you can convert them to cash and donate it to charity,” says Henderson, adding that this was a staff idea that became reality, as was the suggestion that flexitime be introduced to avoid sitting in Sandton traffic.

Other people management practices that X/procure® takes pride in are the benchmarking of salaries, drawing up of development plans for every staff member, succession planning for every position, and a culture of celebrating successes, birthdays and other memorable occasions.

Overindulgence at staff functions is not encouraged but if a staff member is feeling worse for wear, there’ll be a designated driver who’ll get him or her home safely, says Henderson. “We have a lot of fun here. We work hard and we party hard, and when we party, we do it responsibly.”

Michael is a mine of information on safety at the coalface

Michael Madonsela is the kind of safety officer who is willing to roll up his sleeves and work at the coalface – literally.

When he was elected and qualified as a mine health and safety representative 14 years ago, he looked at the two short-term diplomas he had earned and decided he wasn’t satisfied. “I wanted to broaden my knowledge of mine operations.”
So he qualified as a miner.

After three years at the coalface underground, with blasting certificate in hand, Madonsela went back to the safety environment – where his true passion lay – with a deep understanding of coal mining.

His hunger for knowledge and broader horizons was still not satisfied, though. “I enrolled for a National Diploma in Safety at Unisa and then met Chanel Swart, a Marketing and Sales Manager of ERCA, who recommended the Da Vinci Institute.” He enrolled for a BCom degree in 2014.

For his work-based challenge, mine safety was a natural choice of topic for Madonsela, who is now chief safety officer at Kanga Coal’s mine in Ermelo, Mpumalanga.

Why do people take risks?

His focus was on safety hazards associated with what is known as the “Continuous Miner”, a machine operated by remote control and used to cut coal from the coalface underground.

“Statistics showed quite a few operators were getting injured,” he says. “Investigations showed that some of the injuries were due to at-risk behaviour by the operators and I wondered why. What causes people to take risks?”

His starting point was to go through all the accident investigation reports. “I then went to observe machine operators underground and also interviewed those operators.”

Getting to the root of problems

He soon identified several problems. One was that visibility underground was sometimes so poor that machine operators could not see the exact positions of the Continuous Miner machine and the shuttle cars (vehicles used to load cut coal from the Continuous Miner onto conveyor belts). That could make it difficult for them to navigate the machines accurately, sometimes exposing themselves to hazards that may result in injury.

A related problem was operators misjudging their own proximity to the machines and the mine’s sidewalls, sometimes finding themselves caught between the two.
Another problem was when machine operators went into areas where coal had been freshly cut but the roof was not yet properly supported.

It also transpired that some, more experienced operators were taking risks because they were so familiar with the job they were cutting corners.

“It was a combination of conditions and human error,” says Madonsela, who then came up with concrete recommendations for preventing Continuous Miner-related accidents as far as possible.

Coming up with solutions

His recommendations included installing reflective sticks to demarcate areas considered dangerous for operators, installing ducting to clear dust and keep air flowing to improve visibility, and improving communication between machine operators, especially by using sign language (given noisy underground conditions).
“We also send out a weekly bulletin to inform employees about not only the latest safety issues but to raise awareness as well,” says Madonsela.

He graduates with his BCom degree in September 2017. “I’d like to say thank you to Da Vinci because my studies have helped me a lot with understanding operations. When I started my studies, I didn’t know what to expect but I have received quite a lot of support from my colleagues and management from the mine, and my lecturers have been helpful. I have learned a lot.”

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 


The Da Vinci Institute for Technology Management is a School of Managerial Leadership contributing towards socio-economic development and transformation. The Institute’s purpose is to cultivate managerial leaders through the core principles of business driven action learning by offering students a personalised journey of self-discovery and co-creation.
The launch of the 2017 academic year takes place on Thursday 16 February 2017 at The Institute’s campus, situated in the peaceful suburb of Modderfontein, Johannesburg. The official Academic Opening serves as a momentous occasion led by a traditional academic procession. The procession will consist of Da Vinci Council and Da Vinci Faculty members who will march around The Institute’s campus.
Students, alumni and guests in attendance will witness the hoisting of four flags. The one flag signifies the relevance of The Da Vinci Institute in relation to its dream of contributing to the development of a sustainable society.  The second flag signifies the importance of the TT100 Awards Programme, which has been recognising companies for their business prowess in the Management of Technology, Innovation, People, Systems, Research and Sustainability.
The third flag signifies that of the Purple Cow, which is popularised by author and marketer Seth Godin. The Purple Cow serves as a reminder to practice remarkable behaviour every day. The fourth and final flag is that of the South African flag and signifies the love of our beloved country.
Another highlight of the Academic Opening is the launch of a new cohort titled the TT100 Certificate group. Twenty-two individuals from various host companies will start their learning journey on this day. The Department of Science and Technology (DST), MTN and Eskom have respectively sponsored the individuals. This is the first programme of its kind at The Institute and certainly will not be the last.
The final highlight of the Academic Opening is the official welcome and announcement of Da Vinci Faculty Heads and Faculty. The entertainment for the day will be Gauteng Opera, an all-round performing arts and entertainment company and Drumtribe, an interactive drumming team.
Storm Thomas
Communications Manager
011 608 1331

India’s Campus Labs heads for TT100 again

The vast geographical distance between India and South Africa has not stopped Campus Labs, an Indian company based in Delhi NCR, from participating fully in the TT100 awards programme.

With two TT100 awards under its belt already, Campus Labs, specialising in academic, financial and administrative applications for the higher education market, is planning to take part for the third time in 2016.

“We look forward to it,” says Ashish Srivastava, CEO of Campus Labs, which entered the programme for the first time in 2014 – the same year that the TT100 was opened up to companies beyond South Africa’s borders.

In that year, Campus Labs won the management of innovation award in the category for emerging enterprises. In the following year, 2015, the company won the Minister’s Award for Sustainable Performance, also in the category for emerging enterprises.

“We enter because we believe the programme could be a good way to help build our profile in Africa, and because there are similarities in the higher education market in India and South Africa,” says Ashish, who heard about the TT100 through a business contact in Africa.

The awards Campus Labs has won have also been good for the company’s image in India. “Our clients are impressed that we have won international awards.”

TT100 participants from abroad receive exactly the same treatment as South African-based companies, except they interact with the adjudicators via videoconference instead of in person.

“The videoconference session with the adjudicators took a couple of hours and was very detailed. They had many questions for us and we had the opportunity to gain an African perspective on our business. It was a great experience.”


TT100 an opportunity to learn from the best, says X/procure

How often does a small business have the opportunity to learn directly from the best and most successful companies in the country across all industries? That’s relatively rare in the normal course of business. On the TT100 Awards Programme, it’s one of the benefits of participating, says JD Henderson, managing director of X/procure, a regular entrant since 2007.

“In the years when we didn’t win, we networked with the winners to find out what they were doing with their systems, people or technology that we weren’t. They were willing to share and we to listen, just as when we have won, we were willing to share,” says JD Henderson, managing director of X/procure.

Exposure to the best practices of top-performing small, medium and large companies in many different sectors has brought practical benefits to X/procure, whose electronic procurement software is now used by more than 65% of pharmacies in South Africa.

A simple but critical example of lessons taken to heart is the necessity of running failsafe systems that are fully redundant and comprehensively backed up so that clients restocking their pharmacies with medicines are never let down if one link or switch goes down.

“But what’s really amazing for us is that as we grow our technology platforms and stabilise our systems, we are expanding into other industries,” JD says. “We’re now expanding into liquor, where the supply chain is virtually the same as it is in pharmaceuticals.”

The inspiration for this expansion was none other than the TT100 programme. “While we were networking, we saw that these guys (winning companies) were diversifying, and we asked ourselves how we could do the same.”

Changing a weakness into a strength

However, the area where participating in the TT100 has been most valuable to X/procure, according to JD, is in the management of its people. “We identified that as a weakness,” he says. “Software developers and programmers are generally perceived to be introverts; they’re not really socially out there. So we wanted to know what others are doing to win in that category.”

The lessons X/procure brought home from its networking included introducing flexible working hours and leave, and innovative employee wellness initiatives. As a result, by 2015, the company had turned its perceived weakness in managing people into a strength: X/procure won the Management of People category in the small enterprises section of the TT100 in 2015.

Also in 2015, by the way, X/procure won the Management of Innovation category for small enterprises, the Minister’s Award for Sustainable Performance and the DST Director-General’s Award for Overall Excellence. And the company was a finalist in two other categories, the Management of Systems and the Management of Technology.

Interestingly, JD says X/procure has been invited to participate in other awards programmes but would rather stay with the TT100. “None of the others are as focused on our core business as the TT100. Nobody else has a model like the TIPS model. For us, it works.”

For more information, contact
Carol Varga at

Alumni Engagement in a Mode 2 Institution

There is no doubt that man has evolved over the centuries. This evolution has seen the culmination of a rich knowledge economy. The role of universities over this period have contributed significantly to the benefit of a well-informed society.
As students graduate from their Alma Mater (a Latin term referring to one’s educational institution from which one graduated), they become known as alumni of that institution.
The Da Vinci Institute is a private provider of higher education and cultivates managerial leaders through its Mode 2 approach of trans-disciplinary and heterogeneous engagements.
The Institute has approximately 2000 students, of which 76% are over the age of 35 (Da Vinci Profile document, 2016). As adult learners, these individuals have other commitments in terms of work responsibilities and family obligations.
Voorhees & Lingenfelter (2003) define adult learners as “…someone 25 years of age or older involved in postsecondary learning activities” In this context, these learners are described as non-traditional students as they differ from younger students who have the opportunity to study fulltime and do not have work and/or family commitments.
Donovan (2014) highlights this view by stating “According to the National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES), 8.4 million adult learners were enrolled in higher education in 2010 and their enrolment is expected to reach 10.3 million by 2021.”
Although the above statistics are specific to the United States, it does paint a picture worldwide that in fact, more adults are taking up learning and development.
With an underlying view of the fact that Da Vinci students have busy lives, it is only natural to form an alumni association that can be moulded to fit the lives of these individuals.
Some feedback received from alumni, highlight the need to be included within the Da Vinci journey. An MSc alumnus of The Institute who graduated in 2012, Mr Cory Botha stated that what he requires is “a place where research and knowledge is furthered, and I want to be part of that.”
Mr Allen Mutono, also an MSc alumnus who graduated in 2011, advised that he would like regular engagements that are themed with current management challenges.
These statements are supported by Mr Willem du Plooy, a Diploma alumnus of 2012, who states that he “wishes to feel a part of The Institute”.
The brand promise of The Institute is to ‘co-create reality’ and this sentiment compliments the idea of customisation and personalisation. In this frame, Da Vinci has identified various roles in which alumni can add value in their own time, to both themselves as well as The Institute.
Two high level types of engagement have been observed in terms of alumni interaction. This can be noted in terms of ad hoc engagements, as well as more full time engagement.
Ad hoc engagements refer to the participation of alumni at regular monthly events facilitated by The Da Vinci Institute. The attendance of these events by alumni are subject to time availability and the value proposition that is perceived by these individuals.
Full time engagements refer to an ongoing interaction where alumni participate as faculty of The Da Vinci Institute. The ongoing interactions of alumni as faculty are formalised through the procurement and contracting of these individuals by both the Academic office as well as the Client Engagement team.
In conclusion, the emphasis of our engagement with alumni should be focussed on what business projects Da Vinci alumni are involved in, as opposed to the traditional view of what pecuniary value could be harvested from them.
As alumni become involved in Da Vinci activities at their own accord, the community of life-long learners will naturally grow as long as care, understanding and value is experienced by alumni.
CSU Online ValuED Blog. 2016. Non-traditional Students are the New Traditional Students. [ONLINE] Available at: 
[Accessed 21 June 2016].
The Da Vinci Institute. 2016. Da Vinci Profile by Storm Thomas – issuu. [ONLINE] Available at:
[Accessed 21 June 2016].
Voorhees, R. & Lingenfelter, P. 2003. Adult Learners Adult Learners and State Policy and State Policy. [ONLINE] Available at: 
[Accessed 20 June 2016].