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The more problems you have, the more opportunity there is for innovation

The more problems you have, the more opportunity there is for innovation

By Rikus Grobler,, .

Last year the theme of the articles was the improvement of innovation skills and practices. This is mainly because I have always reasoned that innovation is a skill that can be learned and improved upon.

Over the course of the last decade, research on innovation has increased exponentially and the tactics and practices I advocate are backed by empirical research. Hence, the rationale for focusing on these matters is that organisations can not just leave innovation to chance. Like any organisational discipline, you have to improve innovation skills and practices constantly and consistently to stay competitive.

I have looked at a number of techniques last year on how to improve innovation in organisations like taking small steps at first, cultivating creativity, how to sell ideas in the organisation, taking innovation out of the business-as-usual structures, and goal setting and imposing constraints as methods of stimulating innovation. I have also mentioned many times that good ideas start with good problems, so in this delivery I want to unpack this statement a bit.

Necessity is the mother of invention

The above expression literally means that when the need for something becomes essential, you are forced to find ways of getting or achieving it. There are many practical examples available on the Internet of where something was invented because of a pressing need.

To name a few directed at some basics needs that humans have, e.g. keeping food fresh (refrigerators and freezers), access to clean water (dams, pipes, troughs, and even aqueducts), fighting disease (vaccines), protection from the elements (shoes), etc.

Without dwelling into the actual history of how these inventions came about, it is easy to connect the need with the actual solution that was developed. However, as Homo sapiens evolved, most of these basic needs were resolved and it has become more challenging to identify needs (problems). The good news (for any innovator) is that as our lives and societies have become more complex, we also create more and more problems for ourselves!

Taking it back to corporate innovation. Many successful products and services have been developed by companies who wanted to solve a specific problem or frustration for their customers, e.g. customers hate standing in bank queues, OK, let’s have them transact through the Internet and call it Internet Banking.

Simply put, effective innovation is all about matching relevant problems with simple solutions. You can approach it in two different ways. One way is to create the ideas and solutions first and later try to match these to target groups with problems relevant to your solutions. Or you can do it the other way by first identifying the relevant problems of the target groups and then creating ideas and solutions to solve those problems.

But how should you go about finding relevant problems among your target groups? Here are five ways to help you in practice as listed by Gijs van Wulfen:

• Visit customers at their homes or companies and get acquainted with them.

• Have your customers demonstrate how they use your product and observe how it’s used in practice.

• Invite customers to focus groups and listen to their issues.

• Ask customers which products in your domain are their favourites and why.

• Crowdsource customer problems by asking customers to post their input on issues, suggestions, improvements or ideas on relevant places on the web.

If you think about it, the list above is all about communicating with your customer, so why then is it so difficult for organisations to do that? A customer complaint is a good start for finding a good problem to solve!

Next Time

I’ve laid the foundation now for finding good problems and hence, there are some tried and tested problem solving techniques that I want to discuss in the following delivery.

I conclude with a quote from Gerhard Gschwandtner to summarize all I’ve said: ““Problems are nothing but wake-up calls for creativity”.


About The Author

Rikus Grobler

Dr Rikus Grobler is a Namibian academic, inventor, entrepreneur, public speaker, and management consultant who specialises in the development of the innovation capability of companies and individuals. He holds degrees in Engineering and Law, and has an MBA and a PhD in Business Administration. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and he has also completed studies in design thinking and patenting. He has engaged leading Namibian organisations such as The Capricorn Group, Agra, Old Mutual Namibia, The Bank of Namibia, City of Windhoek, The Government of Namibia, Afrox Namibia, and Hollard Namibia. An experienced professional with a background in manufacturing, information technology, tertiary education and financial services, Dr Grobler has been involved in innovation management for the past 10 years and currently holds the position of Manager: Innovation for the Capricorn Group in Namibia. He is particularly interested in creativity, innovation and invention, and his mission is to provide performance-enhancing innovation management services that enable organisations and individuals to fully exploit their creative potential to reach their goals.

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.