By Matjie Lillian Maboya
The recent tornado in KwaZulu Natal and the 2012-2018 drought in Cape Town are just some of the natural disasters that have made it to mainstream media, showing that climate change is undeniable. The impacts of climate change have been felt worldwide and there have been multiple climate strikes and provocative talks by the likes of Greta Thunberg that bring to light just how little progress we are currently making to combat it. Parallel to this raging stream has been the advent of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) which has gained momentum and carries the immense potential to transform our lives and amplify our efforts to address climate change. There are already multitudes of people using advanced technology to galvanise people to act on the ground in making the planet greener such as Mr Beast who launched a sophisticated tree planting campaign that saw more than 20 million trees planted worldwide. Indeed, the possibilities arising from the confluence of climate change and 4IR are plentiful, and so are the potential setbacks in addressing socioeconomic inequality.
The sheer power of tools brought by the 4IR such as big data and greater computing power enables us to integrate different forms of data that previously seemed irrelevant or disconnected. For example, in our attempts to reduce plastic waste that has a negative impact on the environment, we can draw data from plastic bag manufacturing companies, grocery stores that sell plastic bags and plastic recycling centres to understand consumer behaviour on the life cycle of a plastic bag. Processing such data on one platform can enable us to pick up trends about the location and frequency with which a consumer buys plastic bags and when we can potentially send him/her/them a timely reminder to take reusable bags from home on a day they are most likely to go grocery shopping such as on their payday. Combining existing climate data with greater computing power and statistical analysis enables us to draw nuances through the wide range of data sources such as in this example, making it possible to serve consumers better and also engage them in tangible ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Similarly, the technology can be used to hold manufacturers to account and to also wring them into tangible actions to protect the environment. While the 4IR will transform our lives in many ways, some still will remain the same for a long time. For example, while the manufacturing of electric automobiles is on the rise, the cars continue to use rubber tyres which are often not recycled or properly disposed of. The use of 4IR technology such as the internet of things can allow for car manufacturers to add microchips to track the tyres so they can be located and collected when they reach the end of their usability period. Such measures will help to reduce pollution and conserve energy through recycling.
But, 4IR technologies are not the saving grace for all climate-related issues. While they allow for advanced disaster management systems through real-time tracking of weather systems, there are limitations. For example, IBM has recently launched faster weather forecast systems that cover the globe and has thus been a leader in this endeavour. However, in cities that are under resourced even with these warnings, the city might not have adequate resources to evacuate people in time. Unfortunately, most of our cities are not built to withstand climate change-related disasters. Flooding events are one such example that highlights areas with poor drainage and although 4IR can give us early warnings about storms, there is still significant work to be done on a municipal infrastructure development level to build and maintain drainage systems that are more resilient to water-related disasters.
For example, “Greenhouse gas emissions” and “artificial intelligence” can hardly be translated into most South African languages. This already limits the potential for more people to get involved with shaping the conversations and shifting the necessary levers to spearhead change in both fields. Moreover, technologies such as cloud computing, 3D/4D printing and machine learning all require electrical and computing infrastructure which most of the world still does not have access to. This means that the 4IR directly benefits those who are privileged enough to access these resources, leaving behind masses of those who cannot access them. Similarly, knowledge of climate change and its negative impacts are split along socio-economic lines whereby; those in low-income groups are hardest hit by environmental depletion and natural disasters, while wealthier individuals are more knowledgeable and better capacitated to adapt to climate change. 4IR technology can be a way to bridge this knowledge gap through the deployment of technology that can run faster dissemination of bite-sized information packets about each climate-related disaster in a more affordable manner than mainstream media. It starts with the small decisions such as, who gets to sit on the panels about 4IR and climate change, to the nature of the end-user for which these technologies are designed to serve. Advanced robotics and machine learning will ultimately take in the biases of the people who design them. If these people are not the world’s majority, then we will continue to build a world based on ‘the exception’ while passing it as the ‘norm’.
The ability to innovate and to consistently unlock value within business, now and in the future, is one of the most important criteria for success in the digital era. Research from Accenture indicates a growing challenge ahead for South Africa — with only 3 percent of South African organisations successfully unlocking trapped value. Innovation champions with the capability and savvy are showing the way.
Companies are accumulating trapped value.
Exponential technology innovations and the declining cost of advanced technologies are creating abundant value
opportunities for companies to raise efficiency and develop new kinds of products, services and business models. The winners are innovating—using digital technologies to unlock value in their current businesses, seize
new market opportunities and scale up innovation. These are the disruptors.
In South Africa, Accenture’s research shows that most companies are on the wrong side of disruption. They are struggling to convert the opportunities presented by advanced technologies into value. We measured trapped value in two ways: by how consistently companies release value in their current business, and how much more value they are expected to release in future. Our data shows that the largest share of organisations in South Africa—76 percent—are “omni-trapped”, meaning that they do not achieve both.
At the other end of the scale, only 3 percent of South African businesses (compared to a global average of 14 percent) are value releasers—companies able to take full advantage of opportunities to release trapped value. Clearly, South African businesses need to rethink their response to disruption.
Why is this so important right now?
ABUNDANCE FOR ALL
This is a critical period for South Africa and for businesses across Africa. Africa is a continent alive with potential and real innovation.
Take ride-hailing company Lyft, for example, which listed at a market cap of $26 billion. The founders of Lyft first spent five years developing Zimride, a successful rideshare programme in the United States that was inspired by observing a grassroots transport system developed by Zimbabweans who didn’t have access to public transport.
An innovation architecture can help realise this potential, unlocking Africa’s abundance for all by addressing
endemic challenges, such as access to healthcare, education and basic services, and helping businesses
raise efficiency, develop new kinds of products, services and business models to access new markets and
DISRUPTION IS A REALITY
Business leaders in South Africa know that technology–driven innovation and innovators are going to disrupt
the status quo and shape a new reality for their industries, but many feel unprepared for the level of potential
disruption they face. Results from interviews with 100 C-suite South African executives from across 11 industries indicate:
- 75 percent expect their industry to be significantly disrupted in the next three years.
- 46 percent feel unsure or dissatisfied that their company’s innovation efforts will position them well to overcome future disruption.
- Almost half concede that their companies are not prepared for disruption.
To prepare for disruption, our research indicates that South African businesses need to make innovation part of their DNA.
INNOVATION MATTERS: UNLOCKING TRAPPED VALUE AND MANAGING DISRUPTION
Using a bottom up approach, we identified 81 factors from these insights and used them as a basis to develop the Accenture Innovation Maturity Index.
This index measures the maturity of a company’s innovation capability—the innovation structures and practices it has in place.
INNOVATE BY DESIGN
Build the formal mechanisms for reliable innovation.
- Define an innovation strategy. Successful innovators aim for disruptive advances rather than incremental improvements; they balance innovation between old and new, and make sure it is quantifiable.
- Instil a culture of innovation in which creativity is encouraged and rewarded, and ideation is applauded.
- Create an innovation architecture that specifies clear processes for moving innovation from ideation
through R&D to mass-market commercialisation. (see figure 2.)
EMBED INNOVATION PRACTICES
- Data-driven. Generating, sharing and deploying data to deliver new product and service innovations safely and securely.
- Hyper-relevant. Knowing how to be–and stay–relevant by sensing and addressing customers’ changing needs.
- Talent Rich. Creating new, modern forms of workforces (flexible, augmented and adaptive) to gain a competitive advantage in fast-changing markets.
- Asset smart. Adopting intelligent asset and operations management to run businesses as efficiently as possible, and to free up the capacity for other innovative efforts.
- Inclusive. Adopting an inclusive approach to innovation and governance that incorporates a broader range of stakeholders.
- Network-powered. Harnessing the power of a carefully managed ecosystem of partners to bring the best innovations to your customers.
- Technology-propelled. Mastering leading edge technologies that enable business innovation
THE INNOVATION CHAMPION APPROACH
What sets Global Champions apart is their focus on building an innovation architecture—the actual processes that are used to find ideas and bring them all the way to full-scale innovations.
Our research also indicates that Innovation Champions outscore South African companies by almost 30 points in each of the seven key innovation practices.
Global champions build innovation into the fabric of their business by adopting all innovation practices, but they stand out most in their ability to continuously be network powered, data driven and hyper relevant.
WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE? CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING EXAMPLES:
Additive manufacturing company Carbon is collaborating with Adidas to create the Futurecraft range of personalised 3D printed shoes.
Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis system enables Adidas to test and prototype design concepts 10x faster than
previous methods, allowing Adidas to rapidly scale production.
Oil producer Chevron spent $4.3 billion in 2018 on shale basins, approximately 20 percent of its total spend.
It is using data-analysis expertise gained at its offshore wells to make horizontal drilling more efficient. This analysis is based on a proprietary database of over five million well attributes, supplemented by data analytics of petrophysical properties. The insights gained helped Chevron reduce the time taken to drill a shale well from 27 days, to just 15 days, for longer and more complex wells.
Tommy Hilfiger’s runway collections are instantly available through TommyNow, the company’s “see now, buy now” initiative.
This initiative eliminates the standard six-month wait between the runway and retail. As soon as shows begin,
shoppers can order items through the label’s digital platforms, and an event live-stream.
POSITION FOR FUTURE SUCCESS
We believe that all too many times innovation is seen as intangible and a buzz word used loosely not linked to
achieving business value. At Accenture innovation is defined as a new way of doing things that adds value. Having the right innovation structures and adopting practices that allow organisations to unlock trapped value
will better position them for future success.