Leading Edge Innovation: A South African Perspective

The importance of innovation to business longevity and the potential it holds for the African continent has never been disputed. It is a message that we, together with our counterparts across the globe, understands and strive to enable. Collaboration and connectedness now brings a truly external perspective – essential for organisations to understand and respond to rapidly changing market dynamics and consumer needs.


Companies by large understand this imperative and many invest in innovation in pursuit of a more agile, competitive organisation. Often however, these investments do not pay off as a lack of readiness or maturity in innovation management means returns are diminished.

The Innocentrix SA Innovation League study, now in its second year, was conducted by Innocentrix in collaboration with Milpark Business School. It applied the Innovation Readiness Model (IRM) designed by INSEAD Business School (together with Logica), to look at innovation management practises in organisations. This methodology not only enables comparisons by industry and across participating organisations, but also provides the ability to benchmark against other countries.

In essence the study explored approaches to internal and external collaboration, if and how organisations recognise innovation as key to establishing or maintaining a competitive advantage, whether our leadership styles, corporate culture and implementation strategies are working and whether the necessary resources are being made available to ensure growth and sustainability. It boldly asks the question: “To what extent are corporate South Africa applying leading edge thinking to the topic of collaborative innovation”.

The INSEAD IRM model scores organisations and countries according to four levels of innovation readiness (or maturity) that ranges from IRM Level 1 (ad-hoc) to Level 4 (optimised). It considers the following main pillars of innovation sustainability in the process:

  • Leadership and Ambition
  • Organisation and Collaboration
  • Implementation and Measurement and
  • People and Culture


In comparison to the previous year’s SA Innovation League results,  South Africa is making slow but steady progress as our IRM score improved from 1.54 in 2015 to 1.61 in 2016. South Africa rates at IRM Level 1, which indicates that innovation activities are practised to some extent but not in a planned or consistent manner.

Leadership remains our strongest pillar with implementation and measurement our aching Achilles heel. South Africa made best progress with the people and culture pillar where the largest increase in score was evident. (1.50 in 2015 vs. 1.59 in 2016.) See the figure below demonstrating the overall IRM results per pillar.

League Comparisons

Figure 1: SA IRM score 2015 vs 2016

The main strengths and weaknesses in innovation proficiency as mentioned by participants, in summary were:

Strengths Weaknesses
Strong leadership buy-in Not understanding innovation life-cycle dependencies
Dedicated teams and a fearless approach Innovation is seen as nice to have by many
Workable innovation management tools Organisational/employee apathy
Dedicated facilities Irrelevant or wrong metrics
Open communication and teamwork A short term focus
Swift decision-making Lack of structure and processes
  Risk aversion
  Lack of funding and resources
  Ineffective implementation processes


The future success of South African organisations is tightly linked to our ability to build a dynamic and competitive environment through the promotion of innovation and enterprise and driving strong returns on innovation investment in the process.

To get this right, we need to support intent with effective innovation practises. This includes a focus on leadership, enabling organisational structures, collaboration and people, and effective implementation.

The SA Innovation League therefore exists to support innovation outcomes and celebrate innovation excellence in South Africa while defining best practice for a common understanding of innovation management.

The SA Innovation League Awards took place on 23 June 2016 during the InnoLive Conference hosted at Business Connexion in Midrand.

For more information on the Innocentrix SA Innovation League, click here.

The full Innocentrix SA Innovation League Report will be published shortly, unpacking the results in more detail. If you are interested in the results and want to know how South Africa compares to the rest of the world, please click here to be  notified of its release, or if you would like to receive a copy.

Please join the conversation and let us know your thoughts on the topic!

Innocentrix is a South African based innovation management and technology company that provides value to clients with world-leading innovation products and services. We enable ecosystem collaboration, bringing together global expertise and best-in-class innovation management technologies. We assist our clients to get to where they want to go.

For more information on Innocentrix, and for a complete copy of the 2015 Innocentrix SA Innovation League Report, please visit www.innocentrix.co.za.

[1] Are you innovation ready? Plotting your journey on the Innovation Readiness Model- INSEAD/Logica White Paper