A line of NP 200 vehicles at the Nissan plant wait to be fitted.
JOHANNESBURG - Earlier  this year, 116 leading robotics and artificial intelligence experts drafted and signed an open letter to the UN calling for a ban on the development and use of killer robots, but analysts in the industry said this call has come too late as this technology is already being widely used.

This proposed ban on lethal autonomous weapons highlights the moral issues being faced in the tech industry, but it also casts the spotlight on the perils of developing technology without properly understanding how it is going to be used in future.

As companies race to achieve growth, increase sales and develop new products, innovation has become a key driver for success, but many executives are uncertain about how to encourage innovation while ensuring that their businesses meet current needs.

A Deloitte business confidence survey of 600 senior business leaders found that managers who seek innovation, but are unsure of how to make it happen, undermine innovation goals.

Mike Whitfield. Picture: Supplied

Leadership behaviour, according to the survey, contributes between 20percent and 67percent of the climate for creativity in companies.

The survey concludes that leadership is the most important factor for encouraging innovation and creativity, and leaders should therefore act in ways that promote and support innovation at individual, team and organisational levels.

It’s no longer acceptable to simply label your company as a leader in the tech space, or as a disruptor.

If you, as a leader, don’t create an environment for your employees to brainstorm, design and execute occasionally bad ideas that may fail, you will never uncover those amazing ideas that put your company head and shoulders above your competition.

Essentially, organisations can encourage employees to come up with unique solutions and to generate ideas about new work techniques, but if they don’t offer the necessary support to their employees and managers, a culture that sustains purposeful innovation will always be out of reach.


Adding value should always be the central theme of new business offerings.

Embracing change while remaining agile; managing day-to-day business while creating time for innovation; and taking organisational challenges into account all form part of the process.

Nissan remains at the forefront of innovation in the automotive industry, not only because advancement is in the DNA of Japanese culture, but more so because Nissan has always endeavoured to do things differently in bringing new solutions to its customers.

Keeping an eye on customer needs; creating ground-breaking safety and green technology; and understanding how important exceptional customer service is, are just a few aspects driving the company’s goals.

As an industry leader in zero-emission mobility, Nissan is committed to expanding the electric vehicle market, but it is also striving to achieve virtually zero fatalities and serious injuries in accidents involving its vehicles.

Zero emissions and zero fatalities are perfect examples of innovation that makes a difference, and the company’s Intelligent Mobility (IM) vision is to build on this objective.

IM guides the evolution of Nissan products and essentially forms a framework of how to move customers around the world towards a safer and more sustainable future.

Importantly, Nissan would like to see its cutting-edge drive technologies becoming available in a range of mass production models by 2020 to ensure that more people benefit from these innovations.


As people become more connected to their phones, appliances and cars, there will be an increasing demand for technology to be smarter, simpler, consumer-focused and more than just a glitzy flash in the pan.

There is a growing international movement that encourages people to do “digital detoxes”, to “get off the grid” and to reduce their dependency on modern technology. Not to be cognisant of the creeping cynicism that questions the necessity of all technological innovation would be detrimental to any business.

When we consider the technologies that are predicted to change the world, such as artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology, Elon Musk’s letter to the UN should serve as a cautionary tale.

Innovation itself is sometimes easy to achieve, but understanding and predicting the future usage of the technology being created can be incredibly difficult, yet it must be done.

If consumers are putting their faith in innovators to develop advancements to enhance the quality of their lives, it’s incumbent on those pioneers to take a more pragmatic approach to modern inventions.

The advancement of technology will continue to evoke a range of emotions, with some people believing innovation is evil, while others can’t wait to be more connected to the world.

Nissan, globally and locally, strives to be a leader in customer satisfaction and IM while also being an employer of choice and increasing market share. The company’s aim is to inculcate innovation in all sectors to ensure it’s always making a positive difference in the lives of its customers.

The Arthur C Clarke quote which says: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic”, serves to remind us that Nissan’s motto, Innovation That Excites, is as important as the company’s overall mission to provide unique and innovative automotive products, and services that deliver superior measurable values to all stakeholders.

Mike Whitfield is Nissan South Africa managing director.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.