The fine art of using ResearchGate: a Doctorate student’s experience

For several weeks, Da Vinci Institute Doctorate student Estie Serfontein had been struggling to find out more about the research technique known as “purposive sampling” and was having precious little luck. She turned to ResearchGate, an opensource platform for researchers around the world.
“I found an article that explained the different kinds of sampling and sizes and research paradigms. It helped me quite a bit,” says Estie, who has a master’s degree in fine arts and a day job as Quality Assurance Manager at Execujet, a private aviation jet company.
“Whenever I find a source on ResearchGate, it’s quite specific and explanatory, which is helpful,” she says, adding that she has also benefited from the platform’s Q&A Board. “I haven’t asked a specific question on this forum myself but have found quite useful information by looking at other people’s responses to questions that have been posted.”
Estie started her Doctorate in Technology and Innovation in April 2017 and is preparing a descriptive case study on process control systems in South African aviation. She became a member of ResearchGate a few months later, attracted by the concept of being part of a worldwide community of people with a lot of information and research experience.
“I’m not an expert researcher and it helps to be able to follow other researchers in my field,” Estie says.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to request automatic alerts when people doing similar research upload their work. “You add keywords connected to your project and profile, and receive alerts when someone using related keywords uploads material.”
Apart from following other researchers, ResearchGate members can ask the community for input on their work. From Estie’s experience, the response has not been overwhelming. She uploaded her research proposal in February 2018 and has had four reads so far but no specific responses.

She does not find this discouraging. “Once I have completed my first chapter in the near future, I’m sure I’ll be able to use ResearchGate and its functionalities much more to my advantage.”

Da Vinci @ Work: Meet our Alumnus – Zain Reddiar

How Zain faced his fear and came out winning
Having lived and worked across continents, including in a war zone or two, MTN’s Zain Reddiar doesn’t scare easily. He admits to having been petrified of one thing, though: the thought of writing a dissertation.
“The idea scared me to death”, says Zain, Human Resources Director at MTN Cote d’Ivoire and before that, in war-torn South Sudan (where shelling literally occurred outside his house at one stage).
It was during his stay in South Sudan that he faced his fear of formal study and signed up for his master’s degree – dissertation and all – through The Da Vinci Institute.

“I had been a senior executive at MTN for a long time, done tons of short courses and worked in nine different countries, but had no formal tertiary education,” says Zain, who is not linguistically challenged and has a language repertoire that includes Sotho, Farsi, Arabic, French and South African sign language.

“Then MTN Group introduced recognition for prior learning (RPL) and people at the office kept saying to me, ‘You should do it.’ So I tried Unisa and my application was rejected. I felt despondent.”
The Da Vinci Institute, on the other hand, interviewed Zain and was willing to accept him as a master’s student, provided he achieved at least 60% for his research proposal. He succeeded and started out on his dissertation, which was on the topic of transforming HR from the traditional delivery model to shared services.
Life happens
“Being in South Sudan, I couldn’t attend any lectures. That was very challenging because it was all new to me and academic writing was a nightmare – I’m a minimalist by nature,” Zain says. To make up for losing out on lectures, he read voraciously, doing double or triple the required reading.
Then his personal life took a dip. “My dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer and I flew between South Sudan and South Africa every weekend to see him. This shifted the priority of my studies and increased the pressure of adhering to timelines.”
Round about the same time, mid-2016, the civil conflict in South Sudan intensified, forcing NGOs, multinationals and foreign nations to leave the country. In the interest of employee wellbeing, MTN took the decision to evacuate its staff as well. This led to Zain’s move to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
Amid all this turbulence, Zain continued with his master’s studies but realised that he still needed to earn some additional marks to fulfil the academic requirement. Da Vinci suggested that he write a critical review to make up the balance of marks, and Zain agreed.
“Eventually I wrote a full dissertation along with additional reviews and no credits for RPL was granted. I earned the full qualification.”
Defending his master’s dissertation was a challenge he did not relish, though. “I was sick to my tummy when I arrived at the campus; I didn’t know what to expect from the assessing academic panel. My topic was very real to me – it was an experience I had lived – and I managed to do it.”
Zain, who graduated in September 2017, is now working on his research proposal for his doctorate, this time looking at the impact of international assignments on expatriates and their families. This is another very real topic for Zain: not only does he work for a multinational that has a footprint in 22 countries but is also away from his family based in South Africa.


Clearly, he has lost his fear of academic writing. “Once I took the plunge, I started enjoying it. It changed my perspective on the world, the way I think and the manner in which I approach things. I have become far less judgmental. Conducting research has taught me that my view is just a very small lens into a very big and complex picture. It humbles you to some degree.”

Your research is too valuable to keep to yourself!

Da Vinci Master’s and Doctoral graduates are sitting on a goldmine of knowledge and insights that the world is eager to learn from and apply. Now is the time to spread that knowledge far and wide.


People out there care about our research. For proof, look no further than ResearchGate, an opensource platform where 15 million researchers around the world publish their articles for everyone to read – free of charge for researchers and readers alike.
At this stage, The Da Vinci Institute has a fairly small presence on ResearchGate: just over 73 staff, students and alumni have signed up as members. Slowly and surely, though, we are starting to make an impression. Where we started out not long ago with a ResearchGate score of only 7, we then climbed to 8.4, followed by 9 and now stand at 12.35%.
We still have a long way to go, as the ResearchGate scale goes all the way up to 100. However, as more of us join ResearchGate, our presence will grow and so, more importantly, will the reach of our research. “We have a lot of content and it is such valuable stuff, especially our Doctoral studies, that we should be sharing it,” says Dr Ronel Blom, Dean: Research at Da Vinci.
Expert writers on hand to help
Granted, most of The Institute’s postgraduate students and alumni are working people in senior positions or running their own companies, with little time left to publish articles on their research. But, as always, we have made a plan to overcome such challenges – by appointing expert writers to assist students and graduates alike to turn their dissertations and theses into publishable articles. Let us help you showcase your research.
When an article is ready to be published, it can be posted quickly and easily on an opensource platform like ResearchGate, which provides statistics on who has been reading and citing each author’s work.
If you’d like to share your research with the world, please contact Dr Ronel Blom or Tumi Pitsie in the Research Office. Call 011 608 1331.
Here’s to sharing and applying knowledge generated through and in the context of application!



Da Vinci @ Work: Meet our Alumnus – Dr Dana Gampel

Answers are easy, says Dana; the questions make up the ‘art’
Twelve years ago, Dana Gampel became the first Da Vinci Institute student to graduate with a PhD. Today, she is still closely affiliated to The Institute because, like its namesake Leonardo, it continues to be relevant.
“Da Vinci is one of my superheroes. He made art to better understand the world and to inspire the world to engage its elements more creatively. He participated in autopsies to understand how the body worked and designed the Vitruvian Man to teach artists and architects about perspective,” says Dana. “Applied knowledge was the crux of Leonardo’s thinking and applied knowledge is what sets The Da Vinci Institute apart.”
Dana, head of Eskom’s Strategic Intelligence and Analysis unit and CEO of her own company, Atum Strategy Consulting, says The Da Vinci Institute is one of only a few higher education institutions who are actively working with the application of knowledge.
“We don’t need new ways to do algebra and geometry. We need to apply algebra and geometry,” she says. “I want students of Da Vinci to come out and apply knowledge for innovation. That’s what they are taught here, that’s why we are relevant and that’s why I am very proud to be affiliated with The Institute.”
Conventions make for lazy thinking
Dana says anyone hoping to receive a template from Da Vinci on how to apply knowledge is likely to be disappointed. “Conventional practice in business today increasingly relies on templates and ’best practice’. I think these conventions make us lazy and lower the bar.  You’ve got to think creatively. That’s hard and it’s uncomfortable … and from that difficult space, innovation and insight usually emerge.”
When quizzed on how The Institute advocates the TIPS™ framework and whether this is not a template for thinking, Dana quickly retorts that this is “far from being a template. TIPS™ is a meta-framework for responding to challenges and it has to be applied in a creative way,” she says. “To do that, you have to understand the art of asking questions. Finding the answers is relatively easy – the problem is we shy away from, and often don’t know how to, ask the questions. Asking the questions is the start of applied thinking, and the essence of most creative thinking processes.”
Ahead of her time
Dana defended her PhD thesis in 2006, examining the interrelationship between leadership, power and radical transformation. She innovatively developed several tools for managing this interrelationship in order to sustain a competitive advantage.  These tools remain relevant today – and continue to be successfully applied for small and large organizations, government and NGO players and even for individuals, suggesting that she may have been ahead of her time, given how much has changed since then.
“Of course I’m ahead of my time. I’m South African,” she says. “Creative thinking is everywhere in South Africa. We have it in spades. You see it when you go into an impoverished rural area; the inner city … and even in suburbia. It’s remarkable how much innovation and creative application is underway right here. Sadly, as a nation, we have not yet succeeded in harnessing this creative thinking for everyone and making it available for others to improve on. But we will. We’re South African.”

Black Female-Owned Enterprises on the Rise!

Opportunity knocks for black female-owned entrepreneurs
There are encouraging signs for entrepreneurship in South Africa. While the percentage of adults involved in entrepreneurial activities is still low compared to the rest of Africa, necessity is no longer the primary reason why South Africans go into business for themselves. The pursuit of opportunity – known as opportunity motivation – is the main motivating factor for male and female entrepreneurs alike, according to the most recent Global Entrepreneurial Monitor (GEM) report on South Africa.
The trend is particularly marked among women entrepreneurs in the country. In 2001, almost 45% of women in early-stage enterprises were motivated by necessity, says the GEM report. This decreased steadily over the next 15 years and by 2016, had dropped to just over 27%.
In other words, almost 72% of women entrepreneurs in early-stage companies in 2016 were motivated by opportunity and not a necessity. This is a positive trend as opportunity-driven entrepreneurs tends to choose entrepreneurship rather than be pushed into it for lack of alternatives.
The GEM report also notes a strong increase in opportunity-motivation rates among black Africans, rising from just under 30% in 2005 to an impressive 55.4% in 2016, the highest rate of all population groups. What’s more, black Africans now make up three-quarters of the entrepreneurial population in South Africa.
Gender gap narrows
The report does not say where black African females, specifically, stand in this scenario, nor for that matter, where white females stand. This is a pity given that small black women-owned enterprises are widely known to be the least represented segment of the entrepreneurial community in South Africa.
What we do know is that the historical gender gap between the percentage of women entrepreneurs compared to male entrepreneurs is no longer as wide as it used to be. More than seven women were engaged in early-stage entrepreneurship for every 10 male entrepreneurs in 2016, according to GEM, which describes this ratio as a “healthy level of gender parity in terms of entrepreneurial involvement”.
Bearing this out are the results of the Real State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa survey 2017, conducted by the Seed Academy among 1 200 entrepreneurs.
“Encouragingly, we are seeing the gap between the number of male and female entrepreneurs start to narrow as women represented 47% of entrepreneurs surveyed,” said Donna Rachelson, CEO of Seed Engine, which incorporates Seed Academy.  “This gives some indication that efforts focused on the development of women-owned businesses are beginning to pay off.”
This is a reference to South African government initiatives to prioritize the advancement of women-owned and youth-owned enterprises through policies, preferential funding schemes and targeted support.
Wanted: strong female role models
While access to funding and markets are perennial requirements for entrepreneurs of all backgrounds, a support mechanism that should not be underestimated is the motivating power of good role models. As Donna Rachelson of Seed Engine says: “I engage with many female entrepreneurs. It is clear that strong role models are especially powerful. I would, therefore, encourage successful women to mentor and support other women where they can. Successful women entrepreneurs are both an example of what is possible and a source of funding for others.
A powerful platform for showcasing the success of women entrepreneurs in general and black women entrepreneurs, in particular, is the tt100 Business Innovation Awards Programme, now in its 27th year and held annually to recognize excellence in the management of technology, innovation, people, and systems.
The tt100 programme is open to companies of all sizes, including emerging enterprises, and has the long-standing support of the Department of Science and Technology, as well as major private sector companies known for their innovativeness.


“For 2018, we have embarked on a major drive to encourage the participation of black female-owned entrepreneurs, who up to now have been underrepresented in tt100 – just as they have been in the broader economy,” says Sonya Landman, tt100 coordinator. “The time has come for this to change and for black women-owned enterprises to show what they are capable of achieving, and in the process to inspire other women entrepreneurs.”
Entries for the 2018 tt100 programme are already open and will close at the end of August 2018. l

Da Vinci @ Work: Meet Lucky Macheke

Lucky thinks and acts like a managerial leader – and everyone wins
Not so long ago, Lucky Macheke saw himself as an ordinary employee. He would come to work, do his job to the best of his abilities and go home. That mindset has gone for good. Since enrolling for his BCom degree in Business Management with The Da Vinci Institute, Lucky has been thinking and acting like a managerial leader.
“The results have been amazing. I have saved the bank a lot of money and at the same time made life easier for clients who were in a financial predicament,” says Lucky, a consultant in the legal department of one of South Africa’s big banks.
That “paradoxical thinking”, combining business sense and compassion, saw him coming up with a collections solution that would benefit the bank without leaving defaulting homeowners high and dry.
Blending business sense and compassion
“I care about my employer and I care about the wellbeing of our clients, so I presented my idea to the executive committee, who gave me the go-ahead to do a pilot project for three months,” says Lucky. “The result was an improvement of more than 500% in collections.”
This success secured him a place among his employer’s 25 most innovative employees of 2017. “I felt so honoured. I did something that changed the world and changed someone’s situation. I know I can do more amazing stuff; I’ve done it before and I can do it again.”
That confidence comes from knowing that he has what it takes to be a managerial leader.
“For me, a managerial leader is someone who imagines a new and different future and delivers that by applying strategic thinking and long-term systems thinking,” he says. “This is the kind of leader who looks at business performance and makes recommendations to ensure continued growth, viability and competitive advantage within sensible risk parameters, and motivates to ensure that the highest standards of quality and productivity are consistently maintained. A managerial leader is also flexible, problem-solving and creative.”
Lucky, who graduates in September 2018, is planning to do his honours next and then a master’s or an MBA.
No matter how well he does in his career, he says he will never forget the importance of taking people and their wellbeing into account.
“People are important. I realised that when I lost my dad in grade 7 and my mum in grade 10, and was raised by my aunt and my gran, who was over 90 years old and passed a year or two ago. She encouraged me to go to school and make something of myself, and I would like to share my achievements with the people who have been there for me: my family, my colleagues and my mentor, Mr Abel ‘Baba’ Mngadi, previous chief operations officer in the business. He also gave me sustenance to transform theory into practice and have a vision of a true managerial leader.”

Da Vinci @ Work: How Lenard finally found his voice

Meeting him today, it’s difficult to believe that an articulate, friendly person like Lenard Strydom was once shy and introverted and something of a loner within his working career. It’s true, he insists. “A couple of years ago, I was very insecure and scared to interact with people. I had a huge lack of self-confidence.”
Lenard compares his transformation from timid to self-assured to a homeless dog (Thor) that is adopted into a happy family. In fact, that was the analogy he used at his oral defence in February 2018, when he explained to a Da Vinci Institute panel what his BCom Operational Risk Management studies had done for him.
“That dog represented me: skinny, scared and without a voice. Then, through four specific modules and the mentoring I received, I found my voice.”
The four modules that changed Lenard’s life within business were Business Management, Professional Writing Skills, Systems Management and Innovation Management. “Those four modules were new to me, and they taught me a lot,” says Lenard.
Aiding his transformation was the mentoring he received from Da Vinci and his executive manager at his employer, Macsteel. “I never thought I’d be capable of studying for a BCom degree, but those four modules and the mentoring from Nival Porun and Da Vinci were a recipe for success.”
As he grew in confidence, new career horizons opened up for Lenard, who had started his working life as an operator at a steel mill and is now National Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Manager at Macsteel Service Centre SA.
Lenard received the news on 8 February this year that he had successfully completed his work-based challenge and completed his BCom degree.
“Three years later, I’ve finished! This degree gave me skills and knowledge and so much more, and I’ll never stop studying now. But it was the toughest challenge in my entire life, trying to balance work, home, family – a new baby – and my studies.”
When the going got tough, what kept Lenard motivated were his wife, Liechen, and his baby son Ulrich. “My wife would talk sense into me and I would see my son; they are my support structure. I want my wife to be proud of me as a husband and my son to look up to me as a father. That pushed me to complete, and I am so happy that I did,” he says.

“To achieve greatness, you need to believe in yourself, be consistent and disciplined day after day, month after month, and year after year. Never give up; never.”

Left: Lenard Strydom, BCom student, Right: Mark Fuller, Da Vinci Lecturer

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