Innovation Un-obviousness

Innovation (and its twin sister “technology transfer”) is, based on my reading of many documents, supposedly in need of splodges of wonga to make it happen. As well as this may be true to a degree, there are also innovations happening due to inherent needs in SMEs (and for you and I) facing immediate challenges, many of them small speedbumps, if you wish. “‘n Boer maak ‘n plan” as is often said in local vernacular (a farmer makes a plan?).

And many plans are made on a  daily basis to meet these little challenges with very little outside assistance and funding. So innovation is alive and well and in our midst. However, when governmental and other such organizations mention innovation, it usually conjures up the said splodges of wonga and big, idealistic projects based on the wonga being thrown at challenges. And again, this is true to a degree in that it does help.

However, a year ago I had drafted a “proposal” (yoh! that often used word in organizations needing funding to do the things they want to do) to investigate the recently retired (or close to being retired) knowledge base vested in our older brethren. In particular, the proposal revolved around interviewing recently retired experts as well as floor workers in the food industry to elicit from them what ideas they had that were not accepted by the hierarchy in which they operated and which still had merit  in terms of implementing these ideas. A simple question could be used to trigger a possible floodgate: What did your Supervisor turn down in terms of your ideas in order that he/she was not shown up at management level? I think you get the point.

A very recent discussion with a soon-to-be colleague and present collaborator with the Station delivered two comments in this regard when this topic arose: (1) Universities add to this all the time i.e. retirement at 65 when you are still (in many instances) at your most productive in terms of contributing to your field and (2) retired farmworker must have many stories of innovations they had introduced (through the farmer himself) during their working lives low down on the totem pole.

At the end of the day, the key point is that we have a stratum of talent (used and unused) in those recently retired and who feel they may still want to contribute and have not found a way to do so. It’s a story for another day, a project for which to writea proposal (that word) and a challenge to mine the knowledge base in the country.

He who would search for pearls must dive below, for errors like straw upon the waters flow – can’t remember the author sadly.

2 thoughts on “Innovation Un-obviousness

  1. Jessy Van Wyk

    “Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow,
    He who would search for pearls
    must dive below.”
    John Dryden
    Prologue to All for Love

  2. Ndumiso Mshicileli

    I like the reference to the floor workers as these people do have experience and knowledge of a particular technology and might have ideas to innovate and improve the various product processes they are involed in.


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