What is innovation? Is it connecting the dots that other people missed? Dennis Smith, award-winning innovation management and entrepreneurial development professional, presented a webinar to Safreans – answering these questions and connecting the dots by highlighting the important role of freelancers in the future world of work.
“Innovation is all about change. It is about creating value from ideas, it is a journey as opposed to a light-bulb moment and entrepreneurs are the people who make the change happen. As freelancers operating in a Gig economy, we are the entrepreneurs – so it is worth learning the skills to make innovation and success happen,” Dennis said.
What drives innovation?
Global trends drive innovative responses from business and governments. This information about global trends is important for wealth creation. Information capital is thus more important than physical and monetary capital in creating wealth.
The global trends that drive change
- The conscious consumer:
- Sustainable packaging – The move from single-use to biodegradable, reusable or recyclable packaging.
- Sustainable travel – The emissions impact of travel and air travel reduce business travel.
- Sustainable diets – The need for alternative protein sources and localised supply chains.
- Technology and R&D for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
- Electro-mobility – Electrical vehicles reduce emissions.
- Revisiting plastics – Reduce plastic use and increase recycling and bioplastics.
- Automating a greener world – Internet of Things (IoT) paired with Artificial Intelligence (AI).
- Sustainable building practices – Architecture and construction reduce waste and improve resource efficiency.
- Systems-Level Response:
- Supply chain changes – Rethinking supply chains from the bottom up, regulatory and consumer pressure.
- Resource-efficient solutions – Large-scale deforestation, wetland destruction, and land degradation, leading to significant increases in emissions.
- Land-use and management – Integrating circular design into the ways we produce, consume, reuse and recycle goods.
- Investing in Human Capital – Implementing measures to promote employee well-being.
- Sustainable finance & ESG investing – Environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria are becoming increasingly important considerations for investor and financial services providers.
Three fundamental questions to help you innovate
Start with a shift in perspective. Be childlike in your exploration and ask “why?”
- Ask people not close to your work environment for a fresh perspective on your problem solving.
- Seek answers to our questions in an industry or culture you have never looked at before.
- Look for where your problem has been solved by someone else.
“The real skill is to see the bigger picture, the bigger space in which you can make the new connections – and then to make new connections – interesting, unusual, distinctive, better.” Steve Jobs
The Gig economy and innovation
The relevance of the Gig economy
The Gig economy is a labour market made up of freelance, short-term, on-demand work or side hustles. It is redefining the way companies hire and is changing the course of many individuals’ career paths.
The notion of the Gig economy disrupting the workplace was accelerated by Covid-19. Up to 32% of organisations globally are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers. The impact of the Gig economy is that companies are competing to create a compelling environment to attract gigs instead of attracting employees. Research also shows that freelancers are increasingly highly educated and play a key role in driving innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation.
Most in-demand gigs in South Africa
- IT specialists – Technology advancements and many organisations undergoing digital transformation are hiring IT specialists on a project-by-project basis, incorporating work-from-home flexibility.
- Change management specialists – Organisations restructuring to accommodate the new normal, approach these specialists to develop change strategies so that they can develop cultures of agility to stay competitive.
- Finance project experts – These specialists are in demand, especially with forecasting and decision-making experience.
The freelancing landscape in South Africa
According to Safrea’s Freelance Media Industry and Rates Survey, locally the market is dominated by females and the age of respondents varied from 19 to 80, with the majority (27%) being between the ages of 31 and 40. Most freelancers are based in Gauteng (42,5%), followed by the Western Cape (36,6%) and KwaZulu-Natal (7,3%). The most common trades are wordsmiths – copywriters, journalists and editors.
What is innovative entrepreneurship and why is it important?
It is the practice of creating new business ideas intending to generate profit, assist the community and accomplish company goals. Innovative entrepreneurs develop business models and strategies to meet the needs of organisations and improve their competitiveness in the market.
Innovation is key to business success as it leads to business growth, staying ahead of competition, taking advantage of new technologies, and enhancing the brand.
Trust in something
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” Steve Jobs
The new source of wealth
“The new source of wealth is not material; it is information, knowledge applied to work to create value. The pursuit of wealth is now largely the pursuit of information, and the application of intellectual capital to the means of production.”
Walter B. Wriston (former Citicorp chairperson)