Connect with us

By Fundisile Serame

This part of the Innovation Management Series addresses the first phase of the ‘Innovation Value Chain’. This stage is called Idea Generation. There are two key things each organization needs to address in the Idea Generation phase: 1) source of high-quality ideas, and 2) key performance indicators for ideas generated. In other words, where does the firm originate its new ideas? How does it measure its innovation performance?

Let us for a moment consider: where do sparks of good, high-quality ideas come from? This is a question that all organisations are intrinsically interested in, whether they admit it or not. The fact is, innovation is not a linear process. Innovative ideas can emerge from desperate spaces. In a corporate context, these sources can be in-house within a unit, collaboratively through cross-pollination across units, or they can come from spaces external to the firm. While some environments seem to breed innovative ideas effortlessly, others tend to squelch new ideas.

It is natural that managers would look first look in their immediate space, inside their own functional groups or business units, for creative sparks.  They prefer to talk to their immediate colleagues rather than reach out to counterparts in other departments or divisions as they tend to have a pretty good sense of what’s around them. There is also a certain level of comfort that comes with the knowledge that a unit is within the manager’s sphere of control, and that control is lost once that boundary is transcended.

After all, innovative systems have proven to gravitate towards the edge of chaos. However, companies that majorly lean on ‘inside unit’ innovation approach tend to experience a shortage of good new ideas. Research by Morten & Birkinshaw (2007) on the subject found that this is partly due to the inability of managers to forge adequate quality links and networks with others outside their company. Those in search of the bigger sparks need to realize that great innovation is ignited when fragments of ideas come together, be it through internal or external networks.

For an organisation to develop ideas, they need lots of other ideas to connect to those it already has. This is no different from how a human brain functions. There has to be some sort of a fertile environment where these random ideas collide, a system of incubation where one hunch can be connected with another hunch lurking in someone’s mind to create new forms. There exists an interrelationship between innovation idea quality and idea providers’ network connectivity, as one 2009 German study found.

Great drivers of scientific innovation have been historically attributed to increase in connectivity, allowing for individuals to borrow from other people’s creativity to create their own. Organizations get smarter by creating liquid networks and ‘accidental connections’ both internally and externally to improve on quality of ideas going through its innovation funnel.

Internally, this is achieved through cross-unit collaboration wherein insights and knowledge from different parts of the same organization are combined in order to develop new products and businesses. However, this is not easily achieved in big firms as decentralized organizational structures and geographical dispersion make it hard for people to work across units. Getting outside of your comfort zone and making connections to get perspectives is what every organization should strive for. Companies do need to assess whether they are sourcing enough good ideas from outside the company and even outside the industry. They need to tap into the insights and knowledge of customers, end users, competitors, universities, independent entrepreneurs, investors, inventors, scientists, and suppliers.

Though there is evidence that an external ideas sourcing strategy is perhaps the most critical, many companies still do this poorly, resulting in missed opportunities and lower innovation productivity. In part this is due to companies suffering from the damaging “not invented here” syndrome.

Sony is an example we can learn from. After having had an impressive track record throughout the 1980s for developing new-to-the-world products such as the Walkman and PlayStation, the company suffered from this syndrome as admitted by its former CEO Sir Howard Stringer. Even as rivals were introducing next-generation products such as the iPod and Xbox, they continued to believe that outside ideas were not as good as inside ones. Thus, it missed opportunities in such areas as MP3 players and flat-screen TVs and developed unwanted products like cameras that weren’t compatible with the most popular forms of memory at the time.

For a firm to have an understanding of their strong links when it comes to idea generation, it has to candidly introspect and ask itself three key questions:

* Do people in our unit create good ideas on their own?

* Do we create good ideas by working across the company?

* Do we source enough good ideas from outside the firm?

Answering these key questions will involve identifying key performance indicators for each source, i.e. the number of high-quality ideas generated within a unit, across units and externally. Once the organisation has done its introspection and determined if it’s an idea-rich or idear-poor company, it needs to develop strategies that will help leverage its strong links and fix its weak links.

Companies that rely on in-house (unit-based) ideas, for example, need to build external as well as internal cross-unit networks to generate ideas from new connections. They need to figure out their approach to ‘democratizing’ their innovations and whether building external networks should be based on solution-network or discovery network approach. These two approaches are distinct in that while solution-network is geared toward finding answers to specific business problems, discovery network is geared toward unearthing new ideas within broad technology or product domain.

When all is said and done, a firm’s performance on idea generation is highly dependant on their ability to foster an innovative cultural environment. Some environments are powerfully suited to the creation, diffusion and adoption of new ideas while others are not – which tends to be the case with big firms. On how this kind of culture can be fostered, for starters – firms need to spend less time in formal meeting rooms to encouraging creativity.

They need to nurture the spirit of the ‘coffee space’ and to think of innovation as something that happens all the time, not just on special “creative” days. As for emerging markets, like Lesotho, local companies could greatly benefit from developing innovation strategies that seek to leverage knowledge, creativity and experience of networks both locally and of other leading emerging markets especially in markets that have stagnated and growth opportunities remain elusive.

Continue Reading


Why invest for the future



AN investment plan forms a critical pillar of a financial plan, says Tokiso Nthebe, a local author and financial services adviser.

Nthebe, the founder of TKO Financial Wellness and Advisory, says when people invest, they can use their money to buy assets that will increase in value over the long term.
He says these assets can help them build wealth.

“When you invest, your money starts to work for you by providing returns that will beat inflation,’’ Nthebe says.

Nthebe says there is a huge difference between saving and investing.

He says investing requires that you take some level of risk in exchange for an expected return or growth.

Nthebe says Basotho should consider many factors before they decide to start investing.

“It is important to have a clear strategy that guides your investment decisions and to work with qualified professionals,” he says.

Nthebe says one should consider their growth mind-set, investment goals, and their risk tolerance.

In addition, one should consider what kind of growth or return they expect.

He says one should find out whether the institution they invest in is licensed or regulated and how long one should invest.

Nthebe says one should further consider what risks are associated with the investment option and whether there are any associated costs.

He says it is also important to remember that investments take time.

“There are no short cuts to building wealth. Do not fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes,” he says.

Moreover, Nthebe says the investment landscape comprises commercial banks, asset management companies, and insurance companies.

He says each provides different financial products and services.

Nthebe says the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) also offers investment solutions such as treasury bills and treasury bonds that Basotho can consider.

Depending on your investment goals, he says financial service providers have a wide range of investment solutions to choose from that cater for short, medium, and long-term goals.

“I encourage Basotho to do thorough research and seek professional advice before making financial decisions,” he says.

Vince Shorb, the United States National Financial Educators Council CEO, writes that “many of the financial problems people face today started when they were young and making their first financial decisions”.

Shorb further says taking on too much debt, not investing early, and failing to plan can take one decades to recover from such.

However, it takes financial literacy to make good decisions, he says.

Financial literacy has been perceived as a tool that gives you the opportunity to be confident and empowered to live the quality of life you have worked hard for.

Shorb says one of the wisest decisions one can make to prepare for the future is to invest.

Investment has been defined as the commitment of funds with a view to minimising risk and safeguarding capital while earning a return.

Refiloe Mpobole

Continue Reading




When Covid-19 hit and the government shut down all gatherings in April 2020, there seemed no way out for ICONICS (Pty) Ltd, a budding events management company based in Leribe district.

They had two options: shut down or innovate to keep the business going.
They chose the latter.

Three years down the line, ICONICS (Pty) Ltd has completely transformed itself from an events management and public relations company into a manufacturing company that is now the envy of Lesotho.
“The closing of events translated into the closing of our business,” Rapitso Mosebetsi, one of the co-founders of ICONICS (Pty) Ltd told thepost this week.
Mosebetsi established ICONICS in partnership with Tumo Mahapa.

Faced with collapse, Mosebetsi say they began buying Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as surgical gowns, disposal coveralls and safety apparel for resale.
Eventually they decided to manufacture the PPEs and safety clothing. That was the turning point.
But since the company was already down, Mosebetsi says diversification was a hard nut to crack.

“It became quite a long journey (for us),” he says. “We had to come up with something new for the industry.”
He says they had to overcome stiff competition from giant companies and come up with something unique that would set them apart.
“That was how thermal heating apparel was born,” he says.

“We are the first company to produce thermal heating apparel,” he says.
The company manufactures thermal clothing, which is electric clothing, using power banks of five voltages.
“The voltage is so low to electrocute a person,” he says.
The clothing also has a power button to turn it on and off.

Mosebetsi says the thermal heating apparel is on corporate clothing as well as high-visibility clothing.
Mosebetsi says they started the journey with the support of several organisations, such as the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO), to build their capacity.
Mosebetsi says they also got mentorship support from organisations such as the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
The results of years of hard work are now all out for everyone to see.

In 2022, ICONICS won the M100 000 Business Plan Competition hosted by BEDCO.
This grant enabled them to acquire land and buy five more industrial machines.
This did not only enable the company to increase their production to 100 worksuits a week, but it further created permanent jobs for five people as well as three temporary workers.

Last year, the company took part in the Exporter of the Year event hosted by the LNDC in partnership with the Lesotho Post Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Mosebetsi says they won the award for Lesotho’s most innovative and versatile exporter.
He says this did not only put them in the spotlight, but it further encouraged them to do more.
ICONICS was announced as the best exporter of the year at an event hosted by the LNDC earlier this month.
Mosebetsi says this made them proud, as the award is aligned with their vision.

The award further gives the company an opportunity to participate in the regional competition.
He says this opportunity will further give the company a competitive edge in terms of production locally and globally.
“It will be an honour if we can win the regional competition,” he says.

In terms of markets, Mosebetsi says the company has had the opportunity to list their products in the African Trade Market since 2020 with the support of USAID.
This is an e-commerce platform that opens up the market for African countries to list their products.
Mosebetsi says the company did not only get publicity, but the client database also increased.
He says they moved from supplying individuals only to big companies, different organisations, and different government departments such as those involved in mining and health.

Considering the decline of the Lesotho textile industry, Mosebetsi says their secret to success has been their being innovative.
“Our sustainability is matched with innovation,” he says.
Mosebetsi says it also requires patience coupled with lots of investment in terms of time.
“Rome was not built in one day,” he says.

He says working as a team also plays a critical role.
Despite their achievements, Mosebetsi says the market for innovative industries is one of the hardest nuts to crack.
He says the company is in the process of not only making their products known but also educating people about their safety.
Mosebetsi says the other challenge is the decline of the South African Rand as compared to the US Dollar.

He says some of their materials are sourced from China.
Therefore, it is more expensive to buy such materials.
ICONICS is not only seeking to make their brand well known globally, but Mosebetsi says they are also seeking to create more jobs for our youths.

Own Correspondent

Continue Reading


LetsGo and Win!



LETSHEGO Financial Service has launched the LetsGo and Win loan consolidation campaign where customers win weekly and monthly cash prizes of up to M150 000.
The campaign, which was launched yesterday, will end on November 8.
The LetsGo and Win campaign rewards customers for consolidating their loans.
It is aligned with Letshego Lesotho’s version to offer competitive products that cater for the evolving needs of its customers.

The financial services company operates in Lesotho, Botswana, ESwatini, and Zambia.
The Marketing Manager and Business Partner, Tšotetsi Seema, said Letshego Lesotho is committed to delivering increasing value and options to customers.
Seema said this programme is a testament to that commitment.

“The campaign invites customers to consolidate their loans into one low and easy repayment with reduced rates and they stand to win weekly and monthly prizes,” Seema said.

“The weekly cash prizes will be won by lucky customers randomly selected and notified through Letshego Radio shows,” he said.

Additionally, he said two lucky customers will be randomly selected each month and given a chance to spin the wheel of fortune with a chance to receive a maximum of M20 000 each.

“The loans consolidation campaign makes it easier for customers to choose Letshego Lesotho as their preferred financial services partner.”

He said this innovative campaign aims to help individuals streamline their debt payment while benefiting from reduced interest rates.

“Debt consolidation can help customers get a lower monthly payment, pay off their debt sooner, increase their credit score and simplify their life.”

Letshego Lesotho’s Head of Sales, Distribution and Marketing, Motebang Moeketsi, said managing multiple loans can often be overwhelming with varying interest loans due dates and terms.

“The campaign addresses this challenge by combining multiple loans into a single, easy to manage repayment plan,” Moeketsi said.

He added that this simplification not only eases the financial burden on borrowers but also potentially leads to significant savings over time.
Moreover the new consolidation campaign invites customers to take advantage of their best-in-class financial services provided through Letshego Lesotho branch network and digital platforms.

“Letshego Lesotho is committed to increasing financial inclusion through its efforts to serve underbanked communities, promoting financial literacy and delivering positive social impacts for its customers and communities.”

Alice Samuel

Continue Reading