The a-ha moment

Harnessing creativity

15 May 2020 | Banking

Dr Rikus Grobler believes that people's creative ideas are every organisation's superpower – it just needs to be harnessed. He says his ability to recognise, believe in, and propagate this superpower is his own corporate superpower.
Grobler is not only the manager of innovation at the Capricorn Group, he is also a published author of a book on innovation.
While he studied engineering at the University of Stellenbosch, he has since broadened and diversified his expertise and skills. “After I graduated, I started working in Windhoek at Namibia Beverages (Coca-Cola) as a production manager in 1999. Subsequently, I worked in the information technology, consulting, and financial services industries and I tried a couple of ventures on my own as well,” Grobler says.
In his continued journey of self-discovery and to quench his thirst for knowledge, Grobler studied part-time in various fields. Over the past 13 years, he has obtained a law degree, an MBA, and a PhD.
“At the Capricorn Group I am responsible for supporting the company in developing and implementing a strategy to move to a greater degree of direct ownership of innovation that provides sustainable differentiation for new and existing products or services,” he says.
Grobler develops and leads the innovation strategy, design and implements the processes and tools to make innovation happen, to grow the culture and values that foster innovation in the business, and develop employee’s innovation skills.
“Regarding the importance of innovation, for me, there is one quote that summarises best why the pursuit of constant innovation is crucial. It is by the influential writer and management consultant Peter Drucker, who says that innovation is the only competitive advantage a company really has, because quality improvements and price reductions can be replicated, as can technology. Therefore, if a company could have just one major capability, it should be innovation.”
Grobler believes that people are inherently creative and have the potential to come up with great ideas to solve problems and exploit opportunities.
“What I enjoy most about my job and what motivates me every day, is when someone comes up with a useful idea and the idea is implemented, and it adds value to the business and our customers. There is nothing quite as exciting as when you are stuck with a problem, and then someone has that ‘a-ha’ moment!" he enthuses.

INNOVATION DEFINED
“There is no one true universally accepted definition for innovation. What every organisation views as innovation depends on how it is applied in the relevant context,” he says. “But what is innovation then if one single definition for it does not exist? The answer is that all the different meanings have some common denominators.”
Grobler has narrowed it down to the following three concepts that every interpretation of innovation contains in some or other form: novelty (newness), implementation, and value.
“The novelty concept is the true definition of the word. You cannot just copy and paste innovation, because it has to be novel in some form. The implementation concept is easy to explain. If you have a great idea and you do nothing about it that is all it is – an idea. An idea must be implemented for it to be innovation. Value refers to value in any form. If it does not have value for someone in some form, it is not innovation.”
Admittedly, the concept of innovation has changed and evolved throughout the years. “The two realities every business faces, is that there will always be competition, and that the market environment changes continuously. These changes can manifest in many forms. The organisation will experience the impact of change on the bottom line, growth, or the most significant one, sustainability,” he adds.
Grobler believes that an organisation’s survival within economically challenging times has become more difficult. “The principle of survival of the fittest has and will never change. To be the fittest, you need to outsmart your competitors and adapt to the changing circumstances to your best benefit.”
He is the author of the book Innovation Made Simple: A quick reference guide on organisational innovation for busy managers.
“It is a grand and exciting idea to decide you want to write a book. After a while, you realise it is a much bigger undertaking than you originally thought and requires a lot of commitment. So many times, the project stood still and I got stuck, but then you go and sit down again and just write one more paragraph.
Grobler has a real passion for innovation, invention and creativity. He has built up a wealth of knowledge on innovation through diligently studying and applying the subject-matter and engaging and learning from thought-leaders across the world.
“People's ideas made a difference in the whole history of humankind; simple ideas and complex ideas, little ideas, and big ideas. What unknown genius first discovered the wheel? Who was the person who discovered wheat could be made into bread? Our whole world is defined by the people who had the ideas that made possible the automobile, the bridge, the skyscraper, the airplane, the ocean liner, the telephone, the light which turns night into day. Innovation is your silver bullet for survival,” Grobler says.
“Innovation is not always something big like putting a man on the moon or the next technological gadget. Every idea counts. It does not matter if it is big or small or if it fits the criteria of newness, implementation and value. It is innovation and it can make a difference,” he concludes.

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