One of the most exciting things to be at this age is to be young (by age and mind), African and being a part of an organisation at forefront of contributing to the knowledge economy and leveraging the power of data and technology to empower economies and communities. We’re also at a time where the emerging market that is Africa has the opportunity to craft its own the Fourth Industrial revolution perception through not only commodity prices, but to diversify away from these resources and move into sectors which will leverage the opportunity to use open innovation as a tool to shape Africa’s Future Agenda.

Open Innovation is a term coined and promoted by Henry Chesbrough, professor and executive director at the Center for Open Innovation at Berkeley . The professor described it as “ …  a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology. The boundaries between a firm and its environment have become more permeable; innovations can easily transfer inward and outward. The central idea behind open innovation is that in a world of widely distributed knowledge, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research, but should instead buy or license processes or inventions (e.g. patents) from other companies.”

The holistic idea of open innovation relates to creating profit and community from technology convergence of perceptions and an efficient way to operate and find solutions.And although outlined what it is, it is NOT Just crowdsourcing and one dimensional transactions, it’s to foster accelerate creative and business value for all stakeholders involved.

The Global Innovation Index is created and published by INSEAD, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and Cornell University and it covers 127 economies around the world and uses 81 indicators across a range of themes. Although no African countries emerged in the Top 10 of the list, Kenya (80) and Tanzania (96) represented the sub-Saharan African region as innovation players to be on the lookout for. Products and innovations like MPesa, Jumia, Ushahidi and Obami are incredible examples of the type of innovation that can and has come out of the continent.

My argument stems at how better accelerated in proving the concept and taking the product to market could these products have been, had the application of open innovation been applied.

Is it not about time that Africa heightened the advocacy and importance of open innovation? And at that, not just leaving it to one sector, but push collaborative open innovation – the interconnectedness needed to scale a Future Africa Agenda .

One of the most fascinating cases for me is the idea of a Sandbox, which is a cloud based capability that provides access to samples of organisations content and tools and where there’s tangible value for all stakeholders part of the transactions. On Africa’s potential alike, I believe we’re ready for a sandbox, and to this point, not only because Africa data is costly but finding credible sources of data has proven to be incredibly difficult.

Organisations like Fintech Sandbox have shown the value of a sandbox for startup partnerships in Boston, CodeSandbox Live in providing value for real collaboration between developers and Any API which has over 500 open APIs that have benefitted many entities. These entities show us what is possible with the world of open innovation in both emerging ad developed markets.

With the many 2020, 2030 and future plans that Africa has for itself, the concept of open innovation to drive Africa’s Future Agenda is a tool that not only invites the strengthening of intra-African and global knowledge trade , but the opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders in the private, NGOs and public sectors to empower Africa’s success.                                

                                             

Images : EOH and Schema Open Innovation

 

Published in Inno trep tech

The first engagement to become a keynote speaker in 2017 came at the invitation of She Leads Africa (SLA) at their annual Cape Town edition of the SheHive meetup, and it was the opportunity to talk about being a woman in the space of technology and innovation and how to tap into being an intrapreneur in a multinational company. I accepted the invitation because of the crush that I have on SLA’S content and network, as well as because I was afraid as hell and wanted to take me on.

Innovation in Sustainability

Taking me on meant giving me another chance, a chance explained best by Marianne Williamson in her daily devotional entitled “365 Days of Miracles” when she says, “I have not always behaved in ways that have maximized my opportunities. But the fact that attracted them means that they were mine”. So I needed to give myself a chance in my fear, and find a way to communicate and learn through that.

I define innovation as a social process that enables new ideas and perspectives to serve customers and the larger ecosystem to win in dynamic markets and develop the growth of an entity or economy, and through its creativity, become sustainable. It is through this definition that contextualises the framework of the speaking engagements that I take on, this through also being a part of organisations like Thomson Reuters, One Young World, GirlHYPE and my personal brand that grants me an opportunity to be a part of dialogues and events that are of impact.

 Diversity and Inclusion Mansplained in Industry

The retention of talent and its creativity of an entity is reliant on the sustainability of innovation of the company - it’s a talent attracting talent. The opportunity to be on panel discussions like the inaugural Standard Bank (JHB) and Facebook Africa (CPT) Women in Technology Conferences and being nominated for the Inspiring Fifty Women in Technology of South Africa 2017 allowed me some perspective on specifically, South Africa’s agenda for the woman in technology, and there’s still a lot of work to be done. In as much as we can lean in, there’s still the open secret of the profit of having men as allies in the movement of leaning in and inclusion, because the reality is that our male (industry) colleagues have not only social capital, but the superpower of mainsplaining it into existence and action. And don’t get me wrong, by no means is this a call to action to let us women lie low a little, it’s instead what I’m hoping to be as Oprah Winfrey says, an “AHA” moment to leverage on this capital and take more risks.

The Women in Technology Opportunity

I am a young, black woman in technology working for a multinational, and this is my experience and lived perspective on what the concept of Diversity and Inclusion means for and impacts me. It’s beyond gender and race, but systems put in place that need another social process (and policies) to develop the growth of the ecosystem that misrepresents them, to win FOR us (minorities) so we can win WITH them (capitalism). How can we all win? Through the Thomson Reuters Sustainability website, I shared some ideas on how to not only encourage young executives to become more acquintainted with SDGs but be more involved with innovation in the company.

After all, as author and entrepreneur Devon Franklin echoes, one must “ … be willing to negotiate from a level of compensation from a commitment that you are able to keep. Never allow your life to be less than your worth – NEGOTIATE AND ARTICULATE.”

I am so excited for the future of the woman in STEM in Africa because we’re in the great hands of GirlHYPE , Africa Teen Geeks , Taungana Africa , Mawazo Institute and more that I can’t possibly list all – but trust me, there’s great women and men who are ensuring that the girl child, be it in the village or urban areas are educated. And like I always mention, that Women, Diversity and Inclusion is not just a moral but a business issue, and going forward into 2018, I’m honoured to be serving as a non-executive board director for Non-Profit company, GirlHYPE, to develop the next pipeline of African women in STEM!

 Front Image : Thriving Magazine

Published in Inno trep tech

A YEAR IN PRODUCT MANAGEMENT

Thursday, 13 July 2017


Time flies when you’re innovating, and doing so at the intersection of user (customer) experience, business and (emerging) technology. Integrating into the system of product management is more than processes, data and advanced technologies, it’s the people that essentially ensure that there’s strategy for elimination decisions, de-risking and development for new products. And I’ve been fortunate to do this in an environment that is, as we’ve termed in the Labs, “inno-positive” for all this innovation to take place.

I joined the company as a contractor, specifically in the innovation and enterprise space. When I came on board, I did so as a project manager, the first one being the Land Hackathon that looked at how we can use emerging technology to create transparency with land administration and digitization of processes. The successful outcome of this project lead me to take on one of the biggest projects I’ve ever done, which was to lead the launch of the Thomson Reuters Labs™ - Cape Town in October 2016 with an incredible team and the support from our other global network of Labs. With the growth of the Labs, meant that so did the work, relationships, content and responsibility, and so did my role.

I then transitioned into the role of Innovation Programme Manager which leveraged on my experience in working with startups, being a dot connector with the network of the business to the data and innovation Labs and ensuring that we have a community that we can collaborate with when a particular customer-led opportunity came along, this across sub-Sahara Africa.

 

My expansive role now as Ecosystem Manager requires me to manage and build relationships that we have with customers, partners, ecosystem stakeholders and startups; being the connective tissue in engaging the business with Africa’s startup and technology and innovation ecosystem. With these relationships, comes the architecture of business innovation strategies that'll engage the work that we do, this externally and internally. Once these relationships are forged and the excitement of kickstarting to build a new product gets underway, it’s at times easy to get lost in the enthusiasm of it all.

Scope and Defining at High Level

Coming up with an idea can take a few minutes, days or hours of light bulb moments, connecting opportunities and challenges to existing products or product development is where product management begins. From the conversations, the idea needs to be defined, and usually organisations want a high level overview of the deliverables without scoping the project’s life cycle, but understandably, because cost and schedule for stakeholders involved is on the line. To work from this point of perspective (high level to granular) has usually worked in most cases, but each case is as unique as the innovation.

Customer Centricity

With the unique positioning of the Labs being to develop products that are customer led, engaging and gathering the voice of the customer is part and parcel of what drives impactful and creative business solutions. Corporate innovation requires a high frequency of customer centricity so as to experience and determining the feasibility of the product being worked on. Once the right customer representative is brought into the conversation and ideas are birthed, engaging them in (every) step of the process is ideal to having a successful proof-of-concepts proven.

Evangelise within the Company

The one thing that I’ve learnt with corporate innovation and working inside a large company, is that you cannot do it alone, especially in a network that’s over 45000 strong, globally. You need to know which departments, executive sponsors and in my case, Labs buddies (connecting with someone in other Thomson Reuters Labs across the work) to network and connect to. You cannot do it alone!

Product management is a team effort. It takes a corporate innovation village in order to ensure that we’re connected to the right markets, holding conversations with the right customer departments, partnering with the right internal teams, and so much more. It’s been an awesome year in product management, one with a couple of successes paired with failures that you learn to do very fast and pick yourself up again.

 

Here’s another year of innovation!

 

Published in Inno trep tech

Hacking my First Lean In

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

My time is currently being seduced by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, the ultimate feminist intelligence-backed and manifesto for women in the world (who are fortunate enough to access this kind of resource) engaging their will in lead in the workplace and outside of it. The book is authored on the foundation of not only Sandberg and her experiences, but the data that supports the reality of feminism as much as it exposes the world’s commitment to keeping feminism as a promise, and nothing else. The reality is that in the workplace and outside, women’s voices are not heard equally, and the rallying cry of this book, is calling women (and men) to lean in.

It’s no secret that the space of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is a white, male dominated space, and in every capital technology city and corporate one encounters. This is why I’m obsessed with being a Mentor and Sponsor advocate – so many young women professionals need this knowledge sharing.  A 2012 McKinsey report surveying more than 4000 employees of leading companies found that 36% of men wanted to reach the C-suite level of jobs compared to only 18% of women. Admittedly, I cringed when I came across this finding. Granted, not every woman aspires to be a CEO of a company, but for young ambitious women like me who would, representation matters, and we need more of them to be there and so that we can lean in. And, because of having such representation in my network, I ended up hacking my first lean in.

I had just penned my first resignation from a digital agency and wanted to immerse myself into a job and career with more of STEM and startup focus, not knowing that a responsibility of two months would lead me to it. Immediately after my resignation, I had an advisory meeting with my mentor, where I expressed to her my current state of thinking and the direction that I wanted my life to take. A few days later she told me about an opportunity to assist her at coordinating a hackathon for “a company, you’ll see it when we get to the meeting, but I know it’s right up your alley”, and indeed it was, also the company turned out to be Thomson Reuters (no biggie, right?). A week later my mentor received a call that she needed to be in London for about 5 weeks with Mozilla, and told me that she and my current boss had decided that they’re entrusting me to be capable enough to handle being the project manager of the hackathon. The first thing that went through my mind was nothing, because my insecurities arrested my mind, and secondly, it was a Thomson Reuters hackathon, were these two women insane? The fact that they, whom together have almost 45 years in the technology, product development, digital and innovation industries entrusted my capabilities to execute this job was eclipsed by my insecurity. You’d think with the experience they bring to the table, I’d trust their decision to trust me, and whatever potential they saw in me. I didn’t feel deserving, as though they were doing me a favour as opposed to deciding on merit. Sound familiar?  I wanted to pay a penalty for my potential with doubt. I wanted to silence myself, even though I wanted to lead with ambition. The job I was entrusted with couldn’t house both feelings, something had to give.

It was the latter that I gave up. I ended up working with an incredible team of women (with one man on the team) who hacked my insecurities and enabled an environment of thriving and leaning in. The execution of the hackathon was a success and my nervousness to fail that was on cue, lost its way to my expectations of the two day event. Through the hackathon we managed to mine some great ideas about land transparency through ICT, trended on social media on both days and enriched both civil, private and public sectors through knowledge sharing and engaging with creative business solutions.

The opportunity was mine to lose. And to be honest with you, spending time with these two women in the two weeks we had before the mentors’ London trip, and hearing their vision for young, black women in STEM and the private sector, their discussions were the answers to what I would do if I wasn’t afraid. It was knowing that there had to be more to life than stereotype threats, and having the confidence and humility to know that the women who invited me to the table, entrusted me to lean in and lead. This is why I’ve created this platform, so that I could lean in, by sharing my experiences, thoughts and conversations as a young woman in STEM on the continent, we need more of us in this space, a more normalised picture of women leading in this industry.

I was 21, and orchestrated my first life hack(athon). It was the audition that opened the door to the job that I enjoy doing the most, being an Innovation Project Manager with an opportunity to engage with private and public sector, together with startups to innovate with the mission to add business value and create social impact.

 

Hack it till you feel it, and believe it. Then embody it, and run away with the will to lead, and to feel deservingly have your mark made.

 

Published in Life Style

My name is Vuyolwethu Dubese and I am 22 year old Girl in Media and Technology exploring Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Intelligence and Business Development. With a focus on African technology and entrepreneurship, the intent is to be a part of the ecosystem and organisations driven to develop the African lives and the narratives that are shape shifters in how Africans and the world perceive the continent.

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