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Following the first phase of ‘Idea Generation’ in the Innovation Value Chain, The Innovation Management Series continues with this article addressing the second phase. This phase is called Idea Conversion. It is about taking concepts that have been sourced by an organisation, vetting them for funding and developing them into products or practices. This phase precedes the third phase where those products and practices are diffused, which will be addressed in article four of this series of articles.

Successful innovation processes, be they about new product development, service innovation or business innovation, all have one thing in common: they create something fundamentally new that resonates with consumers and the business. If innovative ideas fail to make connections that resonate with customers and the business, they are unlikely to receive any consideration, let alone funding from the company.

The key input into the selection of ideas which the company will commit resources to is its ideas bank (the output of what the previous article discussed – idea generation phase). A company’s ideas bank would be is a space, either physical or virtual, where people put forward ideas to be advanced by decision makers. Having acknowledged that innovation sources are not always Research and Development (R&D) labs of companies, your company may have decided to follow an open innovation approach, sourcing ideas from its external environment (e.g customers, business partners, start-up companies, and so forth). This innovation idea generation process is not some stand-alone process; it needs to be integrated into a selection and development lifecycle. Thus, two key aspects of the idea conversion phase are selection and development.

Idea Selection

Those that have operated in the innovation space would concur that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to idea selection. Your selection method, however, does need to fit with your organisational culture and be transparent for those involved, especially you budding intrapraneurs (entrepreneurs within your company).

From what I have seen in my experience with corporates, a successful transformation of innovation inputs (ideas) to outputs (products & services that will deliver sustainable and, to a great extent, profitable business growth) requires a number of things. I’ll just touch on three aspects: Criteria to help you score business ideas based on their suitability; Screening process; and multi-functional selection team.


A typical first step in the screening process is to develop the selection criteria for evaluating the ideas. Formulating the criteria is to be done prior to the generation of ideas and must consider things like the objectives and limitations of the screening (time, cost, capability, available information, etc.), flow of ideas, product development process, and success factors.

The need to be some sort of a weighting approach where, for example, the criteria is weighted according to importance. There is usually some sort of an initial screening stage and more advanced stage(s). In the initial stage the selection criteria can be divided according to “must” and “want” (considering strategic alignment, feasibility, project size and other company specific criteria) criteria. Ideas that make it to the second screening can then be extensively evaluated based on, for instance, “should” criteria. Such crieteria may include factors like expected project success and profitability, product advantage, fit with corporate resources and market factors, product uniqueness, market and technological feasibility of the idea, organizational-fit, time to develop, as well as costs, profitability and investments required.

The screening and evaluation process:

The idea selection process will take different forms in different organisations.  However, I’ve also observed that companies with a more formalised process would typically have a stage-gate flow model of selecting & developing new products and services. They would also implement idea classification and management software. Some have gone on to toy with the idea of implementing the concept of Innovation Coach where all ideas are sent for final screening. There are always pros and cons for each approach. The salient point to consider is that companies need to avoid the trap of starting with a tool (idea classifier & management software) but instead need to first consider their strategies, objectives and culture, and then find a tool that works in its unique context.

Additionally, there needs to be some sort of screening method adopted. This may be a quantitative or qualitative method, or even a combination of both. I would argue that a simple qualitative method is better utilised early on in the screening process to sort out the obvious “misfits” and the more quantitative ones later on in the process when more information is available.

Innovation literature is not short of frameworks for the process of idea screening and evaluation. As a start, I’d suggest to stick with a simple three-stage framework of initial selection that draws from your idea pool, categorization of ideas into clusters based on pre-defined criteria (perhaps using idea classification and management software), development an idea portfolio from the clusters.

Selection team

No matter how sound the selection process is and how good the criteria is, the idea selection team always has to have the final say. Unfortunately, I have seen selection teams often end up being staffed by persons who have creative people that know (or care) very little about customer and markets, managers who are less in touch with innovation and technology trends; and in most cases  team members who who have scant understanding of finance. In my view, the success of innovation hinges on the balance between creativity and commercial acumen. It goes without saying that idea selection teams neeed to to be capable, open minded and multi-functional team. Such a team should typically include lines of business, finance, sales & marketing, R&D, etc., creative people, that will offer different perspectives and key information before resources can be committed on an idea. Whether ideas should be screened one by one or in groups, it is this team that woud have the responsibility to analyze ideas at different stages of the screening process. Although development of the selected ideas may not be the responsibilitiy of the selection team, it becomes necessary that the team contrinues to work with development and commercialization teams.

Idea Development

Lastly, development strategies may take different approaches. For example, your organisation may find value in prototyping once an idea has passed the screening and evaluation stage. Prototyping involves realising the design in a physical form, though at a small scale. The prototype demonstrates capabilities in visual form and provides evidence of the product’s performance; an essential step to prove that the product works before further investing on it. From the prototype, the company would need to re-evaluate the idea and decide to either ‘kill’ it or allow the designs to be further refined in its normal product development life-cycle. Once development is done, we hit the last phase of the Innovation Value Chain discussed in the previous articles of this Innovation Management Series, Idea Diffusion.

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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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