Businesses were confident in the strength of their organisation’s innovation in the face of global challenges, the Dell Technologies Innovation Index revealed.
According to the new study polling 6 600 employees across over 45 countries, more than two-thirds (68%) of South Africans (84% globally) said that their business had a vibrant culture of innovation. However, the research showed a clear ‘innovation gap’ between perception and realisation.
To understand organisations’ innovation maturity across the globe, respondents were placed on an innovation maturity benchmark ranging from Innovation Leaders to Innovation Laggards. This revealed an innovation perception gap, as the results showed that despite the positive view of innovative business cultures, only 26% of South African organisations (18% worldwide) could be defined as Innovation Leaders and Adopters. Some 53% of South Africans (64% globally) agreed that aspects of their company’s culture held them back individually from being as innovative as they wanted to be.
Doug Woolley, general manager at Dell Technologies South Africa, said there was a powerful equation in business:innovative ideas plus technology equal impact.
“But there are several dependencies that are catching out organisations. They often think it’s to do with the idea. They’re waiting for the next big disruptive lightbulb moment. But small, practical ideas can create a ripple effect that leads to greater productivity, profitability and purpose. What they can’t avoid are the right processes and technology. Value only comes when you have all three,” Woolley said.
The study said this was important, as Innovation Leaders and Adopters were 2.2X more likely to accelerate their innovation during a recession than Innovation Followers and Laggards. The good news was that the Innovation Index was a snapshot in time, and organisations could improve by priming their people, processes and technology for innovation.
Organisations needed help to develop an innovation culture where all ideas could make a difference and learning through failure was encouraged. Businesses recognised this and were confident in their ability to deliver as 89% of South Africans (78% globally) believed that, in part, people join their company because they believed they would be empowered to innovate, which was a major achievement.
However, they needed to ensure that they fix the innovation gap. Half of South African respondents (59% globally) believed people also left their company because they have not been able to innovate as much as they hoped they would. And 53% (64% globally) said aspects of their company’s culture held them back from being as innovative as they want to or could be.
The report also gave businesses a guide on how they could course-correct these issues, highlighting both opportunities to innovate more as well as the barriers that impacted innovation.
In addition to people-specific changes, businesses should also look at how they could improve their processes around innovation. The prime barrier to innovation for respondents’ teams was a lack of time to innovate, which underscores the importance of senior leaders modelling prioritisation. Currently, 73% of South African respondents (68% globally) said their leaders were more focused on the day-to-day running of the business than on innovation. Without true, visible commitment at a leadership level, ambitious, skilled individuals could not achieve their full potential on innovation.
Providing more structure around innovation could also lead to better outcomes. While by its nature, innovation may be seen as an organic, ad-hoc pursuit, 64% of South African Innovation Leaders and Adopters (63% globally) said their innovation was driven by special, dedicated projects.
The study findings pointed to the power of technology to enable innovation, and the consequences of falling behind. The vast majority (91%) of South African organisations (86% globally) were actively seeking out technologies to help them realise their innovation goals. Conversely, 53% (57% globally) believed their technology was not cutting-edge and fear they would fall behind their competitors.
The study also explored where organisations were making gains and facing obstacles across five technology catalysts for innovation: multicloud, edge, modern data infrastructure, anywhere-work and cybersecurity. In nearly all areas, the greatest stumbling block to unlocking that potential was complexity.
The struggles that were evident in the top-cited global technology obstacles to innovation were growing cloud costs, difficulties integrating the overall business architecture with the IT infrastructure architecture, time and money spent to migrate apps to new cloud environments, cybersecurity threats (can’t innovate with data and insecure edge devices) and lack of IT infrastructure to meet and process data at the edge.
According to Statista, Global Innovation Index rank in Africa 2022, by country, last year, South Africa was the most innovative country in Africa, ranking 61st in the Global Innovation Index (GII), scoring 29.8 points out of 100. Morocco and Tunisia followed in the continent ranking, 67th and 73rd in the world, respectively. Guinea, with a score of 11.6 index points, ranked last in Africa and out of 132 countries.