By Annitta Matsika

As we enter a new decade, it is important to reflect on how far we as organisations, management, entrepreneurs, executives and employees have come. It is also important to recognise how far we still have to go to remain relevant and to ensure future sustainability. In doing so, you may need to ask yourself, when was the last time your organisation introduced a new product or service into the market? When was the last time your organisation radically improved or changed its processes? How much of your revenue comes from products or services introduced in the last three years? When last did your employees share or implement new ideas or do they wait until they leave your organisation to act on those ideas? When was the last time you travelled to different countries and regions solely to observe and expose yourself to how they innovate? How often are you thinking of new revenue streams especially those unrelated to your core business?

If you find yourself struggling to answer these questions, then it is an indication that you are not spending enough time thinking about the future sustainability of your organisation.

Planning for the Future

The good news is, you are not alone. Many people in your shoes spend their time focusing on survival and adapting to the very frequent changes in our ecosystem. As a result, you may find yourself working in the business doing the day to day operational tasks instead of delegating and focusing on the strategy and future growth and sustainability of the business. However, the reality is, making decisions and planning today for future growth and success is more difficult than focusing on short term wins and survival.

While we cannot predict the future, the past tells us more than we need to know about what happens when we do not invest enough in the future today. If we only focus on survival, we do not take the necessary risks or make the decisions that could change our organizations and industries entirely.

RELATED READING: TOYOTA IS BUILDING A ‘SMART’ CITY TO TEST ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI), ROBOTS AND SELF-DRIVING CARS

Creating A Blue Ocean

Some of the changes that significantly change the status quo and often times consumer behaviours are often referred to as “disruptions”. For the purposes of this article, I will use a broad definition of “disruption.” In my view, this is about shaking up the way things have always been done, challenging the status quo and creating a blue ocean – ways to stand out that are totally different from your competition.

Your core business, industry, customer behaviours, jobs and economies are at the mercy of disruption. Think about the last time you bought a digital camera? Posted a letter as the most convenient way to communicate with someone? Physically visited your bank to make a transfer or check your account balance? Our informal taxis, “mshikashika”, are competing with our “formal” transport sector. How many homes out there have replaced DSTV with streaming services, for example, Netflix, YouTube and at some point Kwese? Our formal trading market is being challenged every day by informal traders and vendors who cross the border and undercut them on price. Consumer behaviour has been significantly altered by various “disruptions”.

More and more of us are now more comfortable buying our household cleaning products and toiletries from the back of someone’s car parked on any given street. There is no return policy, no accountability and no guarantee but that is a risk we are willing to take. The definition, degree and intensity of disruption vary between industries, regions and countries. What disruption looks like in Zimbabwe is very different from what it looks like in South Africa, Nigeria and our Western and Asian counterparts. Despite this, across the board, the sentiments remain the same – disrupt or be disrupted.

Innovation is Key

Preventing yourself from being disrupted (thereby securing future sustainability, growth and success) requires a very strategic and calculated level of future thinking and planning. It requires making investments and mistakes today that will pay off in the medium and long term. It requires creativity, out the box thinking, risk appetite, exposure and an innovation mentality throughout every level of your organization. To be disruptive, one has to be innovative.

RELATED READING: THE BIG FOUR AUDIT FIRMS PWC, EY, DELOITTE & KPMG INVEST HEAVILY IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)

At EY, innovation is centered around creating and unlocking value. It is the application of better solutions to meet new requirements, unarticulated needs or existing market needs. Whichever way we go about it, we have to add value and build a better working world by embracing change and challenging the status quo.

A common misconception, however, is that innovation is a once-off event that can be adapted on a need by need basis. This is what frustrates organizations most when they do not see any results from their “innovation exercises”. At EY, experience has taught us that innovation is as much an iterative process as it is a mindset.

The innovation journey is a multifaceted process. It affects everyone in your organisation and requires a significant cultural shift. The above is just a drop in the water, or rather an introduction to what innovation and disruption mean for us as communities and what it means for your organisation.

No matter your past success, you have to start imagining a world where your products, services and processes are irrelevant. This will force you to truly start thinking outside the box. The most important consideration? Leadership. Are the leaders in your organisation ready and equipped with the knowledge, skills and information to support your organisation on its innovation journey? Taking all this into consideration really creates the potential for being a catalyst for disruption. Or at the very least, preventing yourself and your organisation from being driven out of the market.

In my next article, Part 2 of this series, I will delve into specifics around what you can start doing today to really get you started on your innovation journey.

While you can make the decision to embark on your innovation journey tomorrow, there are important considerations you need to make. Is your organisation in a position to support and foster innovation and if not, how can you get there?

To find out more contact Annitta Matsika: Email: annitta.matsika@zw.ey.com Address: Angwa City Building, Corner Julius Nyerere Way/ Kwame Nkrumah Avenue. P O Box 62, Harare, Zimbabwe. Tel: +263 4 750905/ 750979

This article was compiled by EY as a source of general information and notification and should not be construed as a formal professional/legal opinion. Although reasonable skill and care is taken when providing information, EY offer no warranties or representations as to the information’s accuracy. The information provided is not intended to replace the need for an expert/ legal opinion on interpretation, application and consequences of the relevant legal, technical or regulatory provisions. E Y does not accept responsibility for any loss or damage you or any third party may suffer as a result of utilising the information provided.

RELATED READING: ERNST & YOUNG BECOMES FIRST BIG FOUR ORGANIZATION TO SET GLOBAL CARBON NEUTRALITY TARGET