Over the past 18 months, the concept of impact and innovation has been heavily on my mind, business and personal development. From designing impact, to evaluating and unpacking it through learning and development gamification. In the journey to answer these questions (with the background in corporate innovation and impact acceleration), I established InnovTel and have been relentlessly enquiring and reiterating since the establishment of the firm, working and partnering with institutions from Europe to Africa to do so.
What has been the result?
The answer has been consistent across verticals with the practice of three core principles in impact innovation, and that is built in the wire of understanding, designing and monitoring and evaluating the impact of your business. A few of these answers are also detailed in the seven free resources (mentioned below) which you can have access when you subscribe to the www.vdubese.com monthly newsletter.
Let’s unpack these principles:
Impact is the result of what value has been created from the immediate consumption of a product.
In late 2020, I was invited by Lufthansa Group’s Inaugural Impact Week for South Africa engaging in impact design and business innovation. Impact Week is a global design thinking challenge that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship and has been held in Nepal, Nigeria, and Colombia to mention a few.
At the heart of the keynote was designing impact, and how inclusion should inform the kind of innovation that has potential to be impactful and intelligent. I broke this down to what I identified as the 3 I’s of how to actualise (“Inclusion Informs Intelligent, Impactful Innovation”) and model impact into the process of engineering a solution as per the design thinking challenge.
Design thinking refers to the cognitive, strategic, and practical processes by design making this composition of this definition inclusive, that makes it inclusive. Marking the foundation of design thinking in creating a solution is inclusive, how can one enhance the model with intelligence and impact to truly capacitate its potential?
Getting started with the Impact Resource Playbook is a good starting point.
Understanding what impact is and means for your business the first step, and one in the right direction to fully actualise the evolution of the company (and product) value. Once you have the data and harnessed the intelligence, a framework must exist of how this impact will be delivered – a strategy if you will, that will aid and abet the execution. Tools like the Impact Delivery Framework resource that I’ve curated come in handy, whether you have established a company or are in the early stages of your business. What does this resource achieve? It is a 3 page document with a guide of questions to help you consult how your business has been delivering its impact, how it can enhance the experience and process for stakeholders, and whether the process is an opportunity for a model upgrade.
Monitor and Evaluate it
“Investors were looking for some kind of objectivity about the question ‘What is impact?’ And the SDGs do give a roadmap. Bridges uses the SDGs to source business opportunities, and CDC is incorporating them into the development impact thesis of every new investment. The SDGs have galvanized a tremendous amount and a growing amount of private sector capital,” - Michele Giddens, co-CEO at Bridges Fund Management, and a non-executive director on the board of CDC Group.
To echo Michele’s outline of what impact can be used for, from sourcing business opportunities to employing investment, the framework that you develop can achieve a great outcome that contribute to the firm’s triple bottom line . How you monitor, evaluate and report your impact strategy makes difference, one that can access you to funding opportunities or weaponise the board to distrust your implementation.
This e-book covers a soft introduction to M&E covering strategy, modelling, stakeholders and reporting. Get yours here!
The impact of your business far outlives the output that you produce, it’s the tree that you should have planted 20 years ago. I’m one who finds thrill in the use of alliteration, and for the sake of the topic, I’d say ‘Invest In Impact Innovation” for your business.
Is this where the impact innovation process ends?
No, it is only the beginning. Investing in this evolving process spans the risk investment framework of your business and informs its trajectory inclusive of financial returns. Innovation is a continuous process dedicated to optimization, it is about finding and leaving something better than you found it, and as the vision of the company and technology of the products becomes optimised with AI and annual upgrades, why can’t the same effort be employed to the value that your stakeholders get from consuming your product?
As I’m writing this, I’ve a bottle of Prosecco Doc Luxury opened and multitasking as a writer and an impassioned drinker of Italian sparkling wine with my flute champagne glass. And due to COVID-19 (well, to some extent), I’m at home in my bed going through how I’ve documented 2020 across my social media platforms and my somewhat illegible printed journal. It’s been a year that has qualified in many books as forgettable and unforgettable, and in its wholesome character has been one that has summoned courage and resilience.
This year started with the embrace of calling me out of familiar environments, and into new territories that knew my capabilities and added capacity along the way. When I left the firm that I was with in late February, I was sure of a few things which included a moderator engagement in Kigali, Rwanda as well as a deserved vacation to a few emirates in the United Arab of Emirates – the trajectory of my career and life was from this point onwards was what I could not have mapped out happening in a space of a few months.
After taking about three months to wallow in the reality that showcased itself through the violence of a pandemic, these months were filled with the relentless job applications acceptances and rejections (that returned with over or under qualified response, or non-culture fit), refining the messaging and positioning of my personal brand, upskilling and consulting businesses and startups in business innovation and strategy. Garnering the momentum in these months, through the work of consulting and continuous effort in Vuyolwethu As A Service was an opportunity to work in the wait, as well as prepare for what the months of stupendous grace that August and the months that followed would present.
It’s often joked about that in 2020, you should at least come out with one skill and I suppose I took that joke a little too seriously. I’ve always been one to outsource the work of skills that I don’t have, which includes the building of this particular website, but through Innovtel, I had a bit too much time on my hands and tons of insomnia to challenge myself to build a website. Through this engagement came an opportunity to work with Lufthansa by being a keynote speaker at their inaugural Impact Week for South Africa and produce a guide of the talk available exclusively to my newsletter community; and a few weeks later, InnovTel (Pty) Ltd was born. Innovtel is an impact design studio that facilitates impact innovation and shared value through Marketing and MIL (monitoring, impact and learning and development). To date, we’ve worked with companies like the University of Cape Town and the Mastercard Foundation, and ShEquity and Bright Insights Global to mention a few, spanning our work across three continents and operating as a five figure business. I stubbornly had to let go of the idea of becoming an entrepreneur by 30, and honour the space in which I was and am being placed in at present.
The experience of shedding through loss of family and friendships, habitual lifestyles and an old self, commanded the fierce submission of the a new way of doing and being. Personally, one of the ways in which I did was through sitting and being at home instead of on a plane and sleeping in a newly made white sheet-fitted hotel room. It felt as if I had lost a sense of mobility and the perceived value that I had attached to it. At home, I had to buy a desk and set aside a space to operate as if I was in a hotel suite or an office, and it’s become a continued way of operating in awareness.
Words and paragraphs are not enough to encapsulate the year of the pivot that was, and the learnings and losses that it carried with it to benefit or throw us completely off. What new ways of being and doing have you had to adopt and adapt to?
On Friday, I shared across my social media platforms a few images accompanied with a caption that encapsulated a few wins from my engagements from the week. One of the reasons why I do this, is to highlight what typically goes on in a week in my career, and the kind of work spectrum from what I like to call Vuyolwethu As A Service (we’ll explain this shortly), as well as with my newly founded company, InnovTel comprises of.
It was overwhelmingly received with great positivity encouraging more of these kinds of post, and as a follow up to my question (which came with a resounding yes) on whether I should unpack what happens in my day/week, I thought it fit so share with you how I manoeuvre being remote.
Over the past few months, I’ve become intentionally aware of the kind of work I do, and the challenge and opportunity that this has presented in separating the offerings and services of my business and that from my personal brand. InnovTel provides services in Innovation Strategy and Monitoring and Evaluation, while Vuyolwethu As a Service (VaaS) is strictly focused on Corporate Moderation, Strategy Consulting and Brand Influence. This has been super helpful in accepting conflicting invitations, and even internal conversations of which umbrella the service desired can be delivered under.
So, with all that said, how does a week in my life really look like?
I’ve segmented this outlook into two verticals (VaaS and InnovTel) with three highlights each of a scenario that will hopefully provide you with a lens of how I spend my week.
Let’s take a look.
Vuyolwethu As A Service (VaaS):
1. Campaign Paused: One of the three ways that I provide a service to clients, is through brand influence with partnerships that are aligned to my verticals of startup advisory, business innovation, gender parity and the lines in between. About a week ago, I was approached by an agency that lead a campaign for a financial services group and once the engagement started, with rates approved on, it was time to send content and get it approved. Unfortunately, a few days earlier before the campaign went live, the client took a decision to put the campaign on pause.
2. Panel Discussion: A client, global technology firm has just launched a partnership with an enterprise technology solution that is seeking to engage on the importance of transformation. Scheduled 5-6 weeks prior, this week was time to shoot and engage on the processes and investments that I have made in InnovTel to insulate and ready it from the COVID-19 pandemic by being a digital business. Using tools like Sage, Payfast and banking with Standard Bank has assisted.
3. Renegotiating a Rate: Everyone wants to get a good price for their service, and beyond that transaction, I focus on the value that can be provided. I recently onboarded a new client who wanted to negotiate my moderating rate, mostly attributed to the fact that they would have to incur costs of taking me out of my home and put me in studio. In keeping with the theme of value creation and exchange, they’ll now also be coming onboard as clients of InnovTel.
1. Competition Preparation: I consulted as a selection committee member from the hundreds of entrants of the student entrepreneurship competition, and this resulted in an invitation to be one of the judges at the invitation of the vice-chancellor of the university. One of the reasons why I love working with universities is the great opportunity to contribute to levelling the playing field in giving all students to exercise the viability of their ideas, as well as an enabling environment and safe culture to cushion failure.
2. Client H2 Expansion Meeting: One of most exciting words that I had heard this week was a client that expressed that they wanted to take our relationship to the next level – and that was to expand our services to them, capacity as well as the region in which they’ll be operating in in 2021. An introductory hour-long conversation that has led to weekly series of mapping and planning the next few years. To say this meeting was the highlight of the week, would be an understatement.
3. Payment, Vendor loading: Business isn’t always sexy, and one of the things that isn’t sexy about business is the payment period and prior to that, the onboarding back and forth of document submission and form refilling. And this week, was filled with a client whom I engaged with doing that for two days (luckily a few minutes in total).
And there you have it, a brief executive summary of what goes on in my week – some highlights, important lowlights and some tactics employed to ensure that value creation is achieved.
How does your week look like, and what services and conversations do you engage in to ensure that you make the most of the value that you trade?
I’d love to hear from you.