Innovation can inspire a nation

Innovation generally refers to changing processes or creating more effective processes, products and ideas.

How important will innovation be for businesses in 2019?

The global Innovation Index ranks South Africa number one in innovation on the African continent.

This is good news for a country where economic growth forecasts have been rather dismal.

In an environment of strong innovative thinking, how can we “catch the wave of innovation” and not be left in the doldrums?

Here are five tips for improving your innovative and possibility thinking.

Look for different associations and connections

I am reading a super book on innovation by entrepreneur Shane Snow. In Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success, he relates an apparent disparate connection between a children’s cardiac ward and Formula 1 racing.

Great Ormond Street Hospital is a children’s clinic in London. In 1999, they were facing a perplexing and devastating challenge. A high mortality rate was plaguing the facility’s cardiac ward.

These fatalities occurred during the handovers between operating room and the intensive care unit.

The handover involved a lengthy, double process lasting 15 minutes. Two doctors then realised that there was an existing benchmark of rapid hand over in Formula 1.

They realised that the Ferrari team took seven seconds to change four tyres, fill the petrol tank, screw on the new tyres and get the car going. They then followed up this thought with a visit to Ferrari. They were received with open arms and with generosity. (The hospital still benefits from this relationship today).

This relationship helped reduce the worst handover errors at the hospital by 66%.

All because they didn’t limit their thinking to their medical landscape.

Look around you for great examples of innovation

Consider the value of deliberately exposing yourself to new innovations and ideas.

An example of this is the 25 Best Inventions of 2017 as decided by Time magazine staff.

Hundreds of inventions from around the world were considered; and eventually narrowed down to the top 25.

Here are three from that list.

What do pop star Rihanna, drones and a baby monitoring system have in common?

Not that much … except that they are all innovations on existing products.

Rihanna has ventured into her own brand of make-up. What gives her the edge is that her line, Fenty Beauty, has 40 shades of foundation and serves a diverse array of women, inclusive of women of colour.

Her competitors are playing catch up as she leverages a largely untapped area within the beauty market.

The use of drones has grown exponentially in the past five years, improving from wildlife research to search and rescue.

The DJI company aims to use this invention to help anyone take better photos, videos and “dronies” also known as drone selfies. It is easier to operate (gesture recognition means you can control it with a wave of your hand), harder to crash (sensors help prevent mid-air collisions) and relatively cheap. Imagine a new collection of photographic perspectives made possible by this innovation?

Neonatal mortality rates can be adversely affected by lack of resources, particularly in poorer developing nations. Fat in a new baby is helpful, as without it, they can rapidly lose body heat, become hypothermic and develop breathing and other problems.

But in areas with few resources, many hospitals and clinics can’t afford incubators to keep babies warm, and most parents don’t know their babies are in danger until it’s too late.

That’s the niche that the Bempu fulfils. It is a cheap light-­up temperature­-monitoring bracelet that fits on a baby’s wrist and sounds an alarm and flashes orange if babies are too cold, so mothers can warm them against their skin or wrap them in blankets.

Watch and research content on innovation

TED is a non-profit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics – from science to business to global issues – in more than 100 languages. I have started a journal where I record the nuggets from books and material I am reading and watching.

Develop a new view of making mistakes

“A mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker. A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end” – unknown author.

In South Africa, we have an aversion to making mistakes. We often associate mistakes with failure. Yet valuable mistakes are well-intentioned errors or failures, not ones born of carelessness. We should make mistakes as early in the development process as possible as a means of exploring as many options as possible. And we should make them when it’s not costly. Short-term failure yields long-term success.

Did you know that mistakes have led to the discovery of DNA, penicillin, aspirin, X-rays, Teflon, Velcro, nylon, cornflakes, Coca-Cola and chocolate-chip cookies?

Start small, think big

For most people, the transition from doing what is necessary and then what is possible and then what seems impossible is huge. This creates all types of psychological challenges and unease and makes giving up easier.

Begin with small steps into the zone of necessity and then into possibility. When you score small victories, you are telling your belief system that it is possible.

Many little steps all add up to a huge step. Don’t become impatient with the small steps. The results will come, but start small and aim and think big.

Steve Reid is the manager of the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CFE) at False Bay College. Entrepreneurs with creative ideas in manufacturing can also contact the CFE at 021 201 1215.