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SA execs lead world on creative behaviours

Sep 16 2014 17:15

Cape Town – Compared globally, South African execs are moving faster to encourage creative behaviours and “disruptive processes” to drive innovation.

This finding was announced by GE on Tuesday when they unveiled the South African results of the 2014 Global Innovation Barometer.

In this story:

AUDIO: Fin24’s Matthew le Cordeur interviews GE’s Tim Schweikert.
VIDEO: How innovation is changing the world
INFOGRAPHIC: Key points from the findings

Tim Schweikert, president and CEO of GE South Africa and transportation for Sub-Saharan Africa, told Fin24 that innovation drives economic growth and has the potential to raise the standard of living and addressing some of societies greatest challenges.

“Executives are recognising that we all need to adapt and change and innovate, which is really the only way they can stay relevant,” he said.

Global Innovation Barometer

Now in its fourth edition and spanning 26 countries, the GE Global Innovation Barometer is an international opinion survey of senior business executives actively engaged in the management of their firm’s innovation strategy. The barometer explores how the perception of innovation is changing in a complex, globalised environment.

The 2014 results show that South African executives have an overwhelmingly positive perception of the role innovation plays in society with more than three-quarters of respondents agreeing that people in the country live better than 10 years ago because of the impact of innovation.

“South Africa has long been known as a hotbed of innovation, from the invention of the world’s first oil-from-coal refinery to the first heart transplant,” said Schweikert. “Lately, a renewed focus has been placed on inspiring and supporting innovation across the country.”


Collaboration for innovation

Nearly all (96%) of executives in South Africa agreed that innovation was increasingly becoming a global game, merging and combining talents, ideas, insights and resources across the world is the only way to be successfully innovative.

“While there are obvious risks to collaboration, more than three-quarters of executives say that collaborating is a risk worth taking if you want to successfully innovate nowadays,” GE said. “As a result, most executives report that revenue generated by collaborative innovation activities has been growing over the last year, though there is still a call to reinforce IP to protect the product of innovative collaboration.”

Some of the findings included

- More than three-quarters (78%) of executives said that collaborating with external business partners was a risk worth taking if you wanedt to successfully innovate nowadays
- 65% of executives reported that revenue generated by collaborative innovation activities had grown over the last year
- 81% of South African executives though we needed to encourage the collaboration of private companies with state-owned enterprises (SOEs)
- 82% of South African executives though that SA needed to reinforce IP to encourage stronger collaboration between companies

Creating a framework for innovation

The barometer showed that executives were divided on how to inspire innovation, as 51% believed that the most successful innovations were planned and driven through a structured process. The other 49% thought innovation emerged spontaneously through the interactions of creative individuals.

This differed from the global average that saw 62% of executives looking to structured programmes to provide innovation.


Other points included:

-  69% of executives in South Africa recognised the need for companies to encourage creative behaviours and disruptive processes in the business in order to be able to innovate successfully
- 76% said it was best to position innovative teams and activities inside the existing lines of businesses and structured teams – above the global average of 68%
-  40% of local executives agreed that SA developed a framework conducive to innovation - up seven points since 2013

Big impact of big data

South African executives saw big data as the silver bullet of innovation.

The vast majority of South African executives believed that big data was critical to understanding customers and anticipating market evolution.

While almost two thirds of business leaders in South Africa believed that it was critical to use the “predictive knowledge” gained from the analysis of big data to innovate successfully, South African executives are well above the global average in believing that they are ready to make the most out of big data.


Other points around big data included:

-  42% of executives in South Africa reported that their company was either totally or quite prepared to make the most out of big data – well above the global average of 25%
-  Nearly half (47%) believed the industrial internet would have a positive impact on the job market
-  More than half (53%) of SA execs said big data was critical to optimise the operational efficiency of all types of businesses, while an additional 23% believed this was true for only certain types of businesses.

Challenges ahead

While South African executives were exceedingly positive about the role of innovation in moving the country forward, they also highlight challenges.

In addition to regulatory hurdles, business leaders highlighted a lack of talent, global scale up and investment as key issues that are limiting innovation.

-  32% of executives identify a lack of talent as limiting innovation – above the global average (22%)
-  28% cite incapacity to scale up successful innovations to a wider or international market
-  26% cite a lack of investment and financial support.

Infographic on key findings:

- Fin24.

innovation  |  creativity  |  barometer


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