Monday, June 02, 2008
Innovate for a better South Africa: SA Blook Chapter 10This post forms a part of the SA Blook.
So what is our reality?
South Africa has an unemployment rate of about 23%, a skills shortage crisis, rising inflation, rising interest rates, a large current account deficit and an uncertain political environment – amongst a number of other things.
All of this points towards a great need, and with great need, comes a great crisis...just not the one you are thinking about. The great crisis we have is a crisis of opportunity. Wherever there is need, there is opportunity.
In this midst of this great opportunity the challenge that we face is finding people who are ready to create solutions. We must find and create people who are willing to innovate each day.
We are all innovators and have the ability to contribute to the creation of a better country. Unfortunately we tend to associate "innovation" with technological improvements, while it should really apply to every task that we do. Innovation needs to become a concept which permeates how we do business, and how we go about our jobs each day.
The other problem is that we tend to think of innovation as large leaps forward. Personally I prefer the Japanese concept of Kaizen, which means continuous change for the better (Mind of the Innovator is worth a read). So when I use the word innovate, I mean keep changing things for the better.
On its own, technical advances will only change South Africa a small amount. We need innovation to happen on all fronts – legal, government, business – but most importantly we need it to happen at a people level. We need to find ways to keep changing ourselves for the better, and with that the rest will come easily.
So how do we as businesses and individuals work towards a better South Africa?
- People matter
Our country, and our businesses run on people. The more we place value on each individual, the more value we build for ourselves. It is time to stop thinking about "human resources" and start thinking about people. People matter, and what they care about matters too.
We are connected to the people around us. Acting in the interest of those around us serves not only to build a better country, but also to nurture and secure our own future.
- Engage in the discussion
We all need to engage in the discussion that is going on around us and try to contribute positively to it. Talking builds community and that forms the foundation for a better country. It helps us find out what matters to other people, and how we can help.
I have been fortunate enough to be a part of an amazing online business community, The Forum SA, which has brought various business owners and managers together to engage with each other. Together we help each other with the daily challenges of running a business. It also provides a platform for us to work together as a group to improve conditions for small business owners in South Africa. Together we create a better country.
The more we take part, the more we grow. Maybe it is time to grow together.
- Be remarkable: make and do things that matter
Jim Collin's wrote, "Good is the enemy of great." Or in Seth Godin's words, be remarkable.
As a whole we have given up our greatness. We have lost our sense of greatness to crime, dirty politicians and corrupt businessmen. Yet as a country we are filled with greatness, even if we are not always able to recognise it.
What and how we do things changes our view of both ourselves and the people around us. Do your actions reflect who you want to become? Do they reflect the country you want to live in? Do they build your (our) greatness, or break it down?
What comes out of us, both in actions and words, reflects not only who we are, but who we are becoming. What steps did you take on the road to greatness today? We need to walk that path – one step at a time.
- Do more with less
Right now we can all feel the pressures of inflation. There are two basic ways to combat inflation – consume less, or produce more. If we can do both at the same time it is a double win. Innovation can help us to both increase productivity as well as decrease costs.
As much as technological innovation can help, finding new ways to equip people with skills and increase their productivity can help even more. As we educate people through schools, universities and on–site training we grow our ability to deliver. As we produce and deliver more we push down inflation.
Each of us has the responsibility to help develop another person. Remember, people matter.
The thought that I would like to leave you with is a question that I have been asking myself quite a bit lately – what is your reality? Think about that for a second before answering. We get bombarded from all directions (media, government, business) by someone else's reality (or one they want us to believe). Too much of that starts to change the way we see our reality.
So, when we strip it all away, when we really look at the exact details of your life, it may be that things are a lot better than we have been led to believe. Spend some time thinking about it.
What is your reality? How can you keep changing it for the better?
Next chapter: The role of the younger generation in SA, and what we need to do to support them.
Previous chapter: Making the most of SA's creative talent and abilities.
This post is a chapter of the SA Blook: A Piece of Significance, an online book written by a diverse group of writers with strong views of our country and the reality we find ourselves living in. The other chapters in the Blook are here:
- The new South Africa - is it real?
- Is SA rich or poor?
- What the world thinks of South Africa and what our global opportunities are
- The importance of each individual's contribution collectively
- SA Inc and the business of doing business in SA
- The beauty and grandeur that surrounds us
- The importance of technology in SA's global emergence
- Building brand South Africa
- Making the most of SA's creative talents and abilities
- Innovate for a better South Africa
- The role of the younger generation in SA, and what we need to do to support them
- Connecting South Africa - Communities that transcend technology
- We are African - the role of collaboration in South Africa's growth
This post is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 South Africa license.
The picture is used under stock.xchng's standard license and was taken by Lynette Lan.
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Engineer Simplicity specialises in the design and development of electronic products.
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