The Delta logo

Navigating Corporate Challenges in South Africa

Explore the multifaceted nature of corporate innovation in the dynamic context of South Africa, an emerging market with its unique set of challenges and opportunities.
March 8, 2024
Image of author
Head of Innovation

In a panel-discussion setting, we explored the multifaceted nature of corporate innovation in the dynamic context of South Africa, an emerging market with its unique set of challenges and opportunities. 

Focusing on corporate growth, resilience and adaptability, ‘Innovative Synergies: Navigating Corporate Challenges in South Africa's Evolving Market Landscape’ unpacked the nuances to expect when exploring new corporate value propositions in emerging markets of South Africa. 

We assembled industry experts:

Keep reading to explore the top ten insights shared by our panellists. 

Key Insight 1: Managing Technology Friction 

When building new value propositions within companies, legacy systems have tended to hinder innovation and agility. 

Legacy systems are any outdated computing systems, hardware or software, that are still in use at a company.

As legacy systems often impede the speed of deployment for new ideas or solutions, it is essential to identify core competencies within the organisation and seek partnerships with external entities that complement these strengths. In turn, corporations can circumvent legacy constraints. 

However, the core of this challenge is not the legacy systems themselves, but rather the mindset shift needed to embrace innovation across all aspects of the company. By testing ideas swiftly and iterating based on real-world feedback, teams can ensure the delivery of value in a rapidly evolving market.

Key Insight 2: Strong Innovation Approaches 

There are various strategies that can have an impact on your company’s overall innovation capabilities. However, some approaches are more efficient and value-creating than others. 

For Corporate Innovation Expert Nande Nqoloba, partnerships are a strong approach that corporations can take to immediately offer extra value within their market.

“Find the opportunity that exists between your core competencies and another organisation's core competencies to build and bring new value to the industry.” - Nande Nqoloba, Corporate Innovation Expert

Furthermore, in order to rapidly develop new value propositions and identify your strongest business opportunities, Nande recommended organising your team in a manner that fosters agility, enabling the swift development of these solutions. 

In order to do this, we suggest asking, “How can we practically build a prototype, test it with real customers, iterate on it and in turn, make continuous improvements to our current offering?” as well as: “Who is responsible for managing these experiments and data collection?”. 

Key Insight 3: Remain Focused on Long-Term Strategies while Maximising on Current Trends

When South African corporations or large entities attempt to remain agile in a rapidly changing market while still adhering to long-term goals, there are constant factors to consider, such as: 

  • Economic pressures
  • Customer needs
  • Political dynamics
  • Technological advancements

In order to manage these factors, a balanced approach is best, where the organisation's long-term strategy provides a framework while still encouraging and allowing flexibility for adaptation. By making use of tools like the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) for quarterly planning, Sivan explained that corporates and large companies can, in fact, practically enable swift responses to emerging opportunities or challenges without compromising on the long-term strategy.

Additionally, as suggested by Nande, leveraging partnerships while fostering a culture of iteration and innovation within corporate structures, similar to that of startups, can also boost overall agility and flexibility to capitalise on current trends. 

Key Insight 4: Creating Value Doesn’t Have To Be ‘Sexy’

Innovation is perceived as synonymous with ‘groundbreaking’. However,  in reality, this is often not the case. 

When it comes to corporate innovation and creating new value for current or new customers, Sivan stressed the importance of keeping a focus on the customer’s problem and pain points rather than opting for a ‘shiney’ new solution. Although it may be enticing to pursue an exciting, feature-rich product, it is far less likely that you’re solving the core problem. 

“9 times out of 10, it's not the coolest, most creative, most cutting-edge, ‘design-award-winning’ and sexy idea. It really is about finding a simple and elegant solution to a very real problem.” - Sivan Lapidus, Senior Design Director for Digital Banking at Absa

Key Insight 5: Future Soft Skillsets & Upskilling Your Team

When looking to the future of corporate innovation, Sivan highlighted three crucial soft skills essential for success in the corporate ‘intrapreneur’ workforce (as adapted from common entrepreneurship characteristics): 

  1. Resilience: Ability to adapt to and absorb change, which allows employees to keep moving forward despite setbacks.
  2. Resourcefulness: Capability to navigate ‘grey’ areas and find quick, clever solutions to day-to-day challenges, both in terms of innovation in value propositions and the internal, day-to-day work processes.
  3. Mindset (Optimism): Having an optimistic and abundant mindset, which involves seeing solutions where other teammates may only see problems and potential limitations, employees need to maintain a strong positive outlook (even in the face of adversity).

Key Insight 6: Proactive Innovation Strategies Executed Internally 

Our panellists spoke to the necessity for companies to seek out inventive strategies and collaborative cultures to remain competitive. 

Chris shared an unconventional approach from Amazon, whereby the industry leader employed dedicated teams to compete with existing Amazon products and solutions, with the aim of ensuring the company stays relevant in rapidly evolving seasons.  

‘’So [Amazon] has got this core business that is generating a significant amount of revenue. How do [they] make sure that [they] stay relevant as a business? Let’s start a separate product team and make them outcompete with this core business. If it works, we use it.”  - Chris Bruchhausen,  Founder and CEO of Strove.

This was echoed by Sivan, who explained that innovation cannot be done in isolation: 

“​The important thing about intrapreneurship in a corporate organisation is that it cannot be done at a team level. You won't have [an] impact if it is a team working in isolation. The main thing, or the first thing that you need to do, is get the organisation to embrace this way of working and this mindset.” 

Key Insight 7: The Power of Talent in Corporate Innovation

In the pursuit of innovation, companies must recognise the pivotal role played by talented individuals within their teams.

Chris Bruchhausen, Founder and CEO of Strove, the rewards-based employee well-being platform, emphasised the significance of fostering a competitive internal culture that visibly champions employee well-being to attract top talent.

“If you want to recruit talented people and you can show them that your company has a culture of health and well-being at its core, and that you prioritise this as a business, you're much more likely to be able to hire those talented people.” - Chris Bruchhausen, Founder and CEO of Strove.

In addition to fostering a culture of well-being, companies can further empower their teams by investing in professional development opportunities, providing access to cutting-edge resources, and encouraging a collaborative and inclusive work environment. These initiatives not only attract top talent but also nurture an environment conducive to creativity, collaboration, and innovation.

Key Insight 8: Enhancing Customer-Centric Collaboration for Seamless Experiences

Nande emphasised the importance of aligning technology, service design, and operational processes to facilitate continuous engagement and collaboration among corporations, clients, and customers. 

He illustrated this point with an example from the insurance industry, where the adoption of digital platforms for real-time data sharing and progress tracking has revolutionised traditional processes. This digital collaboration has addressed major challenges in insurance innovation, particularly in balancing customer experience with employee needs.

“When building value propositions, you don't know what you don't know at the point of designing. However, once you get that feedback from the market and you're iterating, each iteration should form part of the process of building.” 

In summary, fostering collaborative relationships among stakeholders and leveraging digital tools for real-time feedback are key strategies for enhancing customer-centric innovation and delivering seamless experiences.

The Future of Corporate Innovation and Intrapreneurship in South Africa’s Emerging Market

Navigating corporate innovation within South Africa's emerging market requires a multifaceted and balanced approach. Our industry leaders,  Chris Bruchhausen, Founder and CEO of StroveSivan Lapidus, Senior Design Director for Digital Banking at Absa and Nande Nqoloba, a Corporate Innovation Expert, emphasised the importance of fostering a strong company culture, adopting efficient innovation strategies, while maintaining a problem-focused mindset when building relevant value propositions.  

Collaboration with clients and customers, effective technology management, and proactive health solutions are also highlighted as essential elements for corporate innovation success. Moreover, the cultivation of soft skills, such as resilience, resourcefulness, and optimism is just as crucial for navigating the evolving business landscape. 

Lastly, the forward-thinking strategy of employing separate teams to compete with existing solutions offers a bold approach to fostering innovation and adaptability in corporate settings. 

By embracing these insights and strategies, companies can effectively address challenges and seize opportunities in South Africa's dynamic market.

Why Delta Innovate?

As we support relevant innovation strategies and enable strong innovation cultures, The Delta Innovate team ensures that you and your team are well-equipped to thrive in the ever-emerging South African market.

Delta Innovate is an innovation partner for companies looking to activate new initiatives and value propositions in various emerging markets. Along with the insights shared above, our clients get to tap into the collective knowledge of our innovation team, who hold decades of experience in value proposition building in South Africa. 

If you'd like to learn more about how we support innovation teams in discovering, designing, validating, and launching new value propositions in various emerging markets, please get in touch.

Download our free ebook

Relevant articles

2 people talking behind a glass
May 23, 2024
Successful Venture Scaling Learning 5: Business Model
Read more
3 people sitting on the desk and analysing
May 16, 2024
Successful Venture Scaling Learning 4: Market & Competition
Read more
Unique Value Proposition
May 9, 2024
Successful Venture Scaling Learning 3: Value Proposition
Read more