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The innovation process – Part 2

I am on the topic of entrenching innovation as a process in the organisation.  The objective of innovation activities is to create and sustain a competitive advantage over competitors so innovation cannot be a one-time, serendipitous event anymore; it must be entrenched in the “business as usual” practices of the organisation.  The reality is that innovation processes are not necessarily always clear and defined and neither structured nor linear, so in this article I want to go into more detail of some of the more widely-used innovation processes.
The innovation process
Although the innovation process will not be exactly the same for every organisation, there are some common denominators for every innovation process.  Let us first look at some of the more well-known processes found in the academic literature.
Mann proposed a four-step process, namely Define; Select Tool; Generate Solutions and Evaluate. The process starts with a perceived need for something to happen, followed by a clear definition of the right problem, selecting the most appropriate tools to help people to solve it, generating solutions and finally identifying the best solution. Mann’s model does not cover the early stage of opportunity definition and subsequent stages of implementation and further exploitation of newly developed technologies/products.  Brandenburg proposed a seven-stage model, known as the W-Model. The W-Model forms a continuous circle that builds in strategic planning for immediate and future innovation projects and creates a further input for the W-Model. Hansen and Birkinshaw viewed innovation as a value chain comprising three phases, namely Idea Generation, Idea Conversion and Idea Diffusion. The aim of the Idea Generation phase is to generate ideas from various sources. During the Idea Conversion phase, the major tasks are screening and funding of ideas and developing ideas into viable products, services, or businesses. In the Idea Diffusion phase, the developed ideas are spread within and outside the company to receive buy in.  Langdon Morris, co-founder of InnovationLabs LLC, one of the world’s leading innovation consultancies, described the method of creating innovation as “to discover, create and develop ideas, to refine them into useful forms and to use them to earn profits, increase efficiency and/or reduce costs”.  
Based on the above, one can see that there are many published methodologies for innovation and they vary in details, however, in principle, they all share a common model, with five essential processes:  Challenge or opportunity recognition; Generate ideas; Evaluate and select ideas; Develop and implement innovations; and Diffuse and socialise innovations.
It is evident that organisations are struggling with the concept of discplined innovatio and do not always utilise the value of having a structured or defined innovation process. Gary Hamel observed that many organisations are still approaching innovation in a piecemeal fashion and that innovation efforts are incomplete or isolated; and that the innovation process is in need of some innovation itself.  Obviously, managing a process of this scope and complexity will be a challenge for any organisation. However, in the business environment it is evident that there are organisations that do this extraordinarily well and that it is certainly possible to improve and excel in developing an innovation process.
My advice would be to start by putting a “light” process in place, incorporating the five processes mentioned above.  People will soon see the gaps and start to refine the model to fit the organsiation’s specific way of doing things.  The important thing is to keep at it and to let the process become entrenched.
Next Time
Based on the “generic” innovation process, it is clear that generation of ideas is a crucial phase of the innovation process.  Next time, I want to focus on identifying an opportunity or a challenge (I don’t want to use the word “problem”) and the generation of ideas within the innovation process.  I conclude with a point to ponder from Peter Drucker:  “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all”.

About The Author

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.