Innovation is one of the main concerns of many organisations. It plays a crucial role in the growth, survival and success of a business. Ideas that change the world, often described as “innovations”, are birthed from human imagination, and made tangible through applied creativity.
According to Stanford University professor Tina Seelig, author of Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head And Into the World: “Imagination is envisioning things that don’t exist. Creativity is applying imagination to address a challenge. Innovation is applying creativity to generate unique solutions. And entrepreneurship is applying innovations, scaling the ideas, by inspiring others’ imagination.” (Source: *Fast Company).
Innovation is crucial for sustainability, in both business and not-for-profit contexts, as the following two case studies exemplify.
A culture of employee Innovation in business: AttNovate
Atterbury recently launched an innovation platform, AttNovate, to encourage inside-out innovation. AttNovate aims to harness new, inventive ideas from the staff within its group to improve its business.
“We have amazing staff and because they know our business so well, they are in a great position to identify opportunities to improve, advance and evolve. Now, we are providing them a way to put their creative thinking into action. I believe there are already many innovative ideas within the business,” says Armond Boshoff, Atterbury Deputy CEO.
The vision to channel “the power within” Atterbury through AttNovate began with Boshoff, who believes passionately that innovative thinking is a necessary business skill that can, and should, be encouraged and developed.
The AttNovate process is straightforward. Any employee can propose an idea, no matter how unusual or out-of-the-box, that they believe has real potential benefit for the business. There is no opening or closing date, the initiative is ongoing. Ideas are evaluated as they are submitted. Every idea presented and assessed to create value through innovation will receive a prize.
However, ideas are just the starting point, and AttNovate provides the opportunity to incubate, develop and test ideas. The reward for Atterbury’s staff members comes in the form of sharing in the benefits stemming from their idea, with a monetary amount linked directly to the economic value creation that their innovation produces.
“It inspires our employees to think creatively, whether their ideas are incorporated into the business or not. This way of thinking creates an even more stimulating and rewarding workplace and, thus benefitting our people and business overall,” explains Boshoff.
AttNovate was presented to Atterbury personnel in mid-March and officially launched at the beginning of April. There are already several ideas being evaluated for implementation.
“I’m already impressed with what I have seen so far,” says Boshoff proudly. “AttNovate has ignited a new passion in our business and increased the level of engagement generated by staff. I’m sure it will spark many more great ideas and I’m fired up to see what our staff come up with next.”
Teamwork sparks Innovation for not-for-profit sustainability: Mosaic South Africa
Mosaic SA envisions a South Africa where every orphan is loved and cared for. They've implemented the country’s first self-sustainable orphan care model.
The majority of the nation’s orphans are born into situations in which their caretakers struggle to find and keep work, and in turn often can’t provide for even their most basic needs, such as food and shelter. The Mosaic SA model includes housing, educating, and employing families caring for orphans in the townships of South Africa.
Mosaic’s model entails identifying families with two or more orphans who are either in foster care or have been adopted. They build them a brick house with water, plumbing, and electricity, along with separate rooms for boys, girls, and parents. Skills training and employment is offered through two job creation initiatives for parents, to provide them with a sustainable source of income. Then, they address the family’s social needs such as life skills training for parents and supplemental educational activities for the children.
Mosaic was founded by Meyer and Louise Conradie. Mosaic currently has over 20 homes housing over 80 children, of whom more than 50 are orphans; has several business ventures focused on job creation, including Made by Mosaic and Mosaic Builders, which provide jobs for more than 30 people in total. They also have training centres to facilitate afterschool activities and a permanent flow of volunteers from South Africa, Germany, and the United States. The first Mosaic community is located in Ikageng (called Mosaic Ikageng), outside of Potchefstroom, and the second is located in the Western Cape, in the Mbkweni township (called Mosaic Paarl Valley). Plans are in place to continue to replicate the Mosaic model throughout southern Africa.
“It is my opinion that organisations in the social engagement space that are truly changing the world we live in, are organisations who are able to operate in love, courage and wisdom, not embodied by a leader or one person, but rather embodied by a team,” said Conradie.
In both these cases, cultivating a culture where the power of collective creativity can flourish, is highlighted as a catalyst for sustainable change through innovation.
Written by Cilnette Pienaar, communication consultant to the Nation Builder team. Nation Builder is a platform to inspire and equip businesses to lead social change in South Africa. www.proudnationbuilder.co.za