what we do
Innovation is a tool to achieve a specific outcome – and the decision about how, when and where to use innovation is a strategic one.
Understanding how and where to innovate within the business – understanding what kind of innovation is relevant to your firm, relevant to the market – these are deeply strategic questions that affect the long term relevance of an organisation.
The best innovation efforts emerge from strategically relevant questions; we know how to ask these, and we know how to work with you to find the answers.
To implement any strategy requires a well-structured, managed, and monitored system – the organisational design around innovation.
This can reflect strong internal capabilities, strong partnership capabilities – irrespective of what type and philosophy of innovation is relevant for you, having a well thought through management system will ensure it is successful over time.
Designing such a system requires a deep understanding of both innovation options and organisational design philosophies. RIIS brings these to the table, but you bring the other, critical element – the organisational culture that is critical to making it all work. And where innovation culture needs to be developed, RIIS can also support this (principally though capability development work, discussed here).
Knowing what to do is the first step in an innovation journey, but this must be supported (over the medium- and long-term) with the capabilities, skills and competencies to deliver that innovation. This extends further than the strategic questioning that starts this journey; beyond the ideation and divergent thinking efforts that create possible futures. Innovation is a core management discipline that can be coordinated, planned, managed and delivered like any other project.
It does not require geeks, nerds, propeller-heads or bearded hipsters with strange hairstyles – it requires perseverance, honesty, critical thinking and the ability to question your assumptions about what is possible. We have found that providing people the tools with which to innovate, and showing them the value thereof, often leads to profound changes in organisational culture. In our experience, many people are excited to create something new – but they feel frustrated when they don’t have the means to do it. By providing them with that ability, we unlock passion, enthusiasm and a joy for creation.
For a number of clients, we provide an important project delivery support service – particularly in delivering open innovation challenges that require extensive global networks.
Sometimes innovation projects are relatively short-term – anything from 3 to 9 months. In such circumstances, we can provide direct support to ensure that the actual on-the-ground work is completed and freeing up executive time for strategic and management decisions.
As an open innovation focused organisation, we have built large-scale innovation ecosystems both for ourselves, and our partners.
These take many forms – from industry value chain networks, through to highly specialised collaborative events in which groups work together to create solutions.
Building an innovation ecosystem is a key competitive advantage in the modern business world where speed to market, and velocity of knowledge creation are important foundations for success.
Eskom Initiated Open Innovation Pilot Case Study
Eskom contributes enormously to the South African economy by supplying electricity to millions of customers, spanning many industries and residential homes. Being open to new concepts which can add value to Eskom’s innovation cycle, Eskom embarked on an Open Innovation (OI) pilot project with the aim of strategically bringing innovations from external stakeholders into its innovation cycle.
Open Innovation Solution Exchange - Pilot Project Case Study
The Gauteng Province of South Africa has taken a lead on the African continent by piloting a regional Open Innovation (OI) platform to connect the internal R&D processes and systems of private and public sector organisations with an external network of innovators, researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs.
Regional Connect Case Study
Creating an opportunity for interaction within the Southern Africa Region
Zambian Regional Connect Model
The Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS) programme was established by the Finnish Foreign Affairs Ministry four years ago to help drive innovation in Southern Africa in an endeavour to encourage economic and social well-being.
It is often noted that more information at a conference is shared at the coffee station than in the plenary session – even though the same people are present in both settings. The difference is the setting – people share more freely when in a comfortable situation, allowing conversation to flow more freely.
RIIS helps capture the essence of good conversation by creating a safe and productive environment where people can share their views. This approach assumes that a group of people brought together already have the knowledge and wisdom present to address their most important challenges and opportunities.
Participants move between a series of tables where they continue discussions in response to a set of pre-defined questions, focussing on the specific objectives of the event. A series of conversations, lasting about 20 – 30 minutes each, takes place at each table.
In order to facilitate the conversation and present a creative, relaxed space, a café ambience is created. Apart from speaking and listening, participants are encouraged to write or doodle on a paper or tablecloth so that when people move from table to table, they have insight into what previous members have expressed in their own words and images.
RIIS has been facilitating these conversations effectively for a diverse set of clients. Some examples are described below.
This conversation was aimed at helping drive collaboration within, and positive development of, the South African innovation ecosystem.
Innovation is generally seen as a key prerequisite for economic growth, social cohesion and an improved quality of life for all. It is a mechanism – amongst many – to help drive an agenda of socio-economic development, cohesion and growth. Given the myriad challenges that South Africa faces, it is then of interest that the innovation agenda is critically analysed and continuously evolved.
Participants:100 participants ranging from entrepreneurs and startups to senior leaders such as deputy director generals, general managers, CEOs and founders, representing a wide cross sector of society with a diverse set of perspectives, attended, including:
Outcomes:The group identified a set of clearly defined innovation-related objectives that would lead to a material change in the innovation performance of the country. Various groups are taking leadership in delivering these outcomes based on their own mandates.
RIIS facilitated a World Café on behalf of The Innovation Hub, SA National Space Agency (SANSA) and Airbus Defence and Space at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria. The event was the culmination of an OpenIX open innovation challenge through which over two dozen small companies, entrepreneurs and scientists developed/presented innovative technologies and applications using earth observation data.
Outcomes: A match-making style café allowed direct, conversational exchanges between parties, much in the same way 'speed dating' introduces individuals to each other. Through the conversations, a number of new business partnerships were initiated; this included a technical collaboration opportunity between a Cape Town-based startup and global manufacturing giant Airbus.
RIIS facilitated two workshops on behalf of a group of Swiss Technical Universities focussing on the energy sector (representing most of the Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences).
The format of these workshops was aimed at facilitating direct and in-depth conversations with the Swiss delegates, focusing on potential collaboration for research around the energy and power sector. Three rounds of small-group discussions around various energy related topics took place followed by an open dialogue. The conversations explored the current state of the energy and power ecosystem of South Africa and the challenges and opportunities for collaboration therein.
Participants:More than 100 representatives from industry, academia and research and the private sector attended the 2 events held respectively in Cape Town and Pretoria.
Outcomes:Several opportunities for collaborative research were identified. A number of energy related projects are planned for 2017 that will explore further opportunities.
We pay close attention to the reason why people are brought together and what needs to be achieved. For every World Café we facilitate, we research the topic and the potential stakeholders to support the dialogue, making sure that the most important elements are being addressed.
The space where the World Café is carefully chosen and set up to create a hospitable space – safe and inviting. People are at their most creative in terms of thinking, speaking and listening, when people feel comfortable to be themselves. This is achieved from the point where invitations are sent out to where a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere at the venue is created.
Careful attention is given to the questions that are being put forward to be answered, as knowledge emerges in response to compelling, powerful questions. This is made possible by knowing the topic well.
Through experience, RIIS effectively facilitates the process to encourage everyone to contribute their ideas and perspectives, as well as support and guide participants to truly listen.
One of the key characteristics of a World Café is having to move between tables, meet new people, actively contribute your thinking, and link the core of your discoveries to ever-widening circles of thought. Surprising new insights and enriching perspectives are carried from one table to another.
The success of a World Café lies in the quality of our listening. Through careful facilitation, participants are guided to shared listening, paying attention to themes, patterns and insights – this is where a sense of connection to the larger whole is nourished.
“Harvesting” at the end of a World Café involves making the pattern of wholeness visible to the entire group. It brings together a pattern of wholeness that connects with conversations at other tables. RIIS often uses a Graphic Recorder, to visually bring this pattern to life!