Here’s a real-world innovation challenge - how on earth do you make this happen?
Take top innovators from 11 countries, give them just 2 months, to generate 748 ideas, and decide on 5 practical solutions to the impact of Covid-19. Available free to anyone in the world.

Well it's been done! We're privileged today, to share this world-first announcement, from Coenie Middel, Chairman of Middel & Partners in South Africa.

Coenie is a Chartered Accountant with a passion for innovation. And he's going to share with us how he organised his new project under great pressure.

Coenie founded Middel & Partners as a sole practitioner in 1992.
He does not fit the standard mould of a conservative Chartered Accountant. Being awarded as one of the most “Inspiring Accountants in the World” in 2016, highlights a few of his passions for business.

Coenie assists companies to innovate, cra  ft business models that deliver value to all stakeholders by linking strategy with resources and core capabilities.

Making innovation a key strategy of short- and long-term success, and establishing frameworks for radical and incremental innovation. Coenie is the first accredited FORTH Innovation Methodology facilitator in Central and Southern Africa.

He has amassed specialist experience in the Mining, Agriculture, Construction, Healthcare, Public Sectors, as well as the Media & Entertainment industry. Coenie consults to international and nationally listed companies, large private clients, owner managed entities and government.

You can learn more about Middle & Partners Business Model Innovation on their website.

For a quick teaser…check out this video

Listen to the full episode …

[00:03:52] Innovating is a Process

I think many industries have been on that verge of, they've reached a point where they should change, but they haven't changed, et cetera. And what COVID has created is it’s like a trigger for them to say, okay, fine you know, now we’re forced to change.

[00:05:21] You know, the, the great thing about humans are that, they they're actually easy to adapt when there's pressure on them. You know, people are, comfort creatures in a sense, they’re stuck in their ways until such time as they get disrupted. Yeah, and then you suddenly see innovation and different and creative thinking, coming along.

[00:06:02] So I think people are really reconsidering their business models much more aggressively and, and from urgency. Um, and I think that, you know, many customers come to us and they say, you know what, okay, what do you think we should do?

[00:06:40] But the point is that changing your business and innovating is a process. It's not just about an idea and ideas.

[00:06:59] because I could get, I could have dinner with somebody and get a good idea, but that's not a business. You know, that's not the innovation. And I think that's, I think the biggest thing for me is that people do not know and businesses do not know the process of how do I reinvent my business.

[00:09:59] And, and it's consists of, there are simple stages, you know? So people think that innovation is something, yeah, you better be really arty or you've got to be really something creative, in actual fact no, it's, it's about the process. If you follow a certain process with the right team, with the right people in your own business, you know, we’re very focused on saying, you know there is this incredible potential in your own business, and if you take those people that know your business very well, and you put them through that process, getting them to explore in a sense since you are [00:10:34] building innovation.

[00:11:21] Know Your Customer

You can only innovate when you really understand your customer. And when you understand the, the friction, because when you understand the friction from your customer, there is the innovation opportunity. And I think you've touched on a very important point in the sense that on many occasions, you know, CEOs, they think they have the direction that they should take, you know, And, in many instances, they’re staff are more closely connected to the needs of the clients.

[00:11:55] We've got to listen more. We've got to listen to our customers. And CEOs have got to listen to the customers, you know, either through the staff or the people that work for them to really understand, because that's where the opportunities lie.

[00:17:39] Innovation for Global Impact

The Journey consists of five stages. And we used a, uh, an innovation methodology called forth FORTH. And it's the acronym for, for the following stages. The first stage was what we call full steam ahead.

[00:17:59] we defined what we wanted to achieve. We put down the objectives, in terms of that we wanted to make a huge difference to the world in the sense that we had certain focus areas in terms of, you know, the spreading of the virus, we wanted to contain it.

[00:18:23] And the solution that we were looking for was not a vaccine because we knew, we knew that governments are working on it. And so we wanted to work on more practical innovation. So the spreading and the managing of the virus. Another focus area was education and the health care facilities.

[00:18:46] And then the third area we focused on was post COVID. You know, the impact on SME’s and how we could help them, etcetera. And also social enterprises that suddenly would be sitting with a lot of potentially food shortages, of people without jobs, et cetera.

[00:19:13] And so we put the right team together. Um, we went what we call the second stage is called ‘observe and learn’. Because again, I think that's the biggest thing that people are missing when they're innovators. Not to do an observe and learn.

[00:19:34] So the observe and learn, allows us to really look at the frictions of what's happening out there in terms of COVID. So we did extensive work in terms of, you know, what is, what is happening, you know, where are the frictions?

[00:19:54] We, after we did that we went into ‘raise ideas’. We raised 748 ideas. So, what we did then is we narrowed them down and we narrowed them down to 12. And you can only do that with a good process, you know.

[00:20:24] We tested those 12 concepts again around the world. And again, beautiful about this project we did everything online and collaborating with 11 countries around the world, And then we finally decided, uh, we took the best five of those 12 and developed them into business cases.

[00:22:07] FoodCall

So, the first one we did was, one of the concepts is school thing called FoodCall Now FoodCall is that, you know, with, with the pandemic in many countries around the world, and we've seen it now in, in Africa, we seeing it Africa in particular, we're seeing it, we see in Italy.

Um, and we're seeing it in other parts of the world where because people do not have work. They do not have access to, they don't have money to buy food. And governments are obviously helping and supporting but the problem with, with, food support in Africa, as an example, you know, governments load up a lot of trucks and they drive to areas and people stand in queues and wait for food, et cetera.

And they stand in the sun, et cetera. So they get, uh, you know, you know, they've, they pick up the virus because they they're waiting as long queues, et cetera. So Food Call. It's a, it's a very innovative design in terms of I'm connecting people that, that care that can give to others, um, food to people that need food and the way it works is with the very simplest it's a simplified voucher system.

I go to the website, I buy food vouchers online. And I can send that to Josh or to anybody. Um, or I can see the two open organization and NGO and the NGO can then spread those little vouchers around. And that a person that gets that little voucher can walk into a shop, local shop, a participating store, and they can redeem that voucher for food, um, food that they needed, et cetera.

So the key here is that that. You making use of the, the, the existing infrastructures. Um, you don't, you're not carrying food around you. Don't load trucks and drive them hundreds of kilometers to go and deliver food. And in actual fact you're supporting the local businesses um, just by having the ability to, to redeem a view of voucher that you can buy.

[00:27:24] COVID Busters

So then we have a thing called COVID busters, you know, so So the COVID busters is a, um, an idea in terms of, you know obviously when the epidemic pandemic broke out, people were feeling very unsafe and they still do, but people are going back to work, etc. So many employers now need to take responsibility for the safety [00:28:00] of their staff, because if you're going to go back to work you need to know that you are safe and because are other people infected or not etc. So the COVID Busters, is an international organization that, that sets the standard for how do I check, screen, test and you know, what is best practice for the screening and testing and tracking right.  And COVID Busters makes use of very advanced technology in terms of uh digital, mobile apps.

So, customers and businesses can easily screen their staff, they could be self screening. uh you would type in all your information on your mobile phone before you come to work, etc and they would know if you are at risk or not. And even if you [00:29:00] arrive at work, the scanning and, and, heat sensors are designed that they would, they would, um, you know, measure your temperature, but also link it to your particular profile and identify if you're, if you're an at risk person or not.

And it's designed to, to handle big crowds like schools and big companies with lots of people working there etc. I think that what you're going to see in the future, you know, more advanced we are going to see faster reaction in terms of test results. Hopefully we will be able to test results much quicker because now we're waiting 24 hours to get, to get the results.

How can someone get involved? How could for example, New Zealand, is it company based? Is it country based?

So we are working with, with healthcare companies um, in various countries. So, um, that's also important for us in terms of that when the COVID busters, um, um, work in a certain country that they, we want them to work closely with the health authorities in a particular country.  But then what the COVID busters do is that they, people can, approach us and say they want to become a COVID Buster.

They want to go in and scan and screen people at stadiums, that you know they might have a security company, etc and they think you know what, I want to train my, my security people, train them up to be a COVID Buster so that they can do the screening etc.

So, that information has got to be available on our website the covidbusters.org, um, website.

[00:34:01] TechScout

So, the next one is called Tech Scout. You know, the thing is with, COVID is that there is still a lot of people that are left out of the digital world, you know, in terms of, and in a lockdown in many countries, you know, a lot of time has been wasted because of the fact that people could, if, you know, there are so many amazing tools and so many ways that we can digitally empower people, you know?

So Tech Scout is an organization again, it's a free service that partners with local government and municipalities.

And what it does is that it empowers the communities. If you think about a small little town or a city, um, you know, I can give training on any software package, um, to a thousand or 2000, 14,000, a hundred thousand people in a session, you know, and the cost of me of transferring that knowledge to people in a community or a city is absolutely minimal, you know? So, it's about this digital transformation, but making it easy for people to learn the digital skills, for you know, how to operate your computer, how to operate it and certain software packages.

So, Tech scout is an initiative in terms of to empower people and to digitally transform for the future.

[00:38:03] We-nnovation

So number four is what we call We-nnovation W E N N O V AT I O N. And We-nnovation is that, that, you know it comes from that I can, I can invent alone, but I cannot innovate alone. We innovate together, it's co-creation so that's where the word comes from.

But We-nnovation is again, a social enterprise that we set up that, um, would help NGOs that have got a big social impact in the world. And, uh, we will help them to innovate their social enterprise or NGO for the new normal, in terms of saying, you know what, we are going to help you through this journey, what lies ahead.

We'll facilitate it. We'll give you the tools, we'll help you, um, because you are as a social enterprise or an NGO that's looking after the social needs of people either physically, emotionally, you're going to help a lot of, you are going to need a lot of help.

And, but you would have to think innovatively in terms of that, and that would, we would make tools available. We'll make people available, in terms of helping people through a journey, um, through the organization. So this is an invitation to social enterprises around the world that potentially has a huge social impact.

And when we talk about digital transformation and things like that, and digitally empowering people, um, we’re effectively doing it in a very effective way, you know, if obviously, if you can get hardware, there's certain challenges sure, but social enterprise would really need to reconsider the way that they do things in the way that they help people to look after themselves as well. So We-nnovation would certainly would be able to assist with that.

[00:43:38] Universal Teacher

Then the fifth one is Universal Teacher. Now Universal Teacher is if you think about it, that you know, many schools around the world are still operating in an industrial way of teaching.

You sit in the class, you keep quiet and your teacher teaches etc and for years, and years and years we've been discussing this thing in terms of that schools have to change. The way we do, to be more immersive, more engaging, etc.

And now with COVID we’ve realized that, okay, fine you're now people were, uh, with lockdown, um, separated, schools are closed, universities are closing and many schools, many teachers are now disconnected from the pupils and, um, and so what now?

So, what will happen to kids, the future of kids in terms of the education is a critical part, you know, so and Universal Teachers is to say, you know, there are wonderful teachers out there in the world and you know, maybe there's a way that a teacher that teaches 30 children in a classroom could be teaching thousands of children around the world.

So Universal Teachers enables teachers to help them build an online experience and immersive and engaging content to really engage with the learners in and out of classroom, you know, we'll go back to classrooms. I mean, we know that, but is that the right thing to do because, you [00:46:00] know, should classrooms be more suited for facilitation and working in work groups, et cetera.

I think that, again, you know, this COVID-19 has pushed us over the edge in terms of really asking the question of how relevant and how productive is the way that we, we have schools and universities, you know. I'm busy with a university in South Africa, a very large one. That's totally reconsidering the way that they've been, um, been operating and this is because of COVID-19. People realize that this, you know, we've got to change, we've got to change fast because the future of our kids, is in our hands.

Yeah. I think that you know, innovating education, for me, certainly I think a lot the digital transformation for education has been a failure up to this point in time, because the reason is that if you take a book and you just put it on an electronic format, that to me is not digital transformation.

You know, in actual fact, I’d rather prefer a book that I can feel, and I could write in etc etc. Then I don't have to have an iPad and the battery runs flat or a mobile phone, etc etc. And I think that, um, online learning is not working if you're not going to create and utilize online tools that is more engaging than just staring at a screen and text and things like that. You know? So when we use a medium, like digital tools, in a sense, animation and augmented reality, and those types of things right now. Um, you know, we, we could really, we could really fast track the learning for people.

[00:58:23] Innovation by Co-Creation

You know, if you ask somebody any business, you said you want to innovate. The hand will go up. Yeah. of course. We want to innovate, you know, who doesn't want to innovate. And then the second question is like, okay, what are you willing to spend some money and then the hands drop you know. Yeah, it's the same with organizations, you know, when, when large businesses, you know, they have a lot of money for certain things, but they've got no money for innovation.

And I think people associate innovation with, Oh, I'm going to develop a new gadget. I'm going to build a new phone or something like that. And what do we know about building phones in the sense? And people forget that innovation is so many things. It's not just the gadget.

It's about customer engagement. It's about your brand. It's about your, the way, it is about your products and your services, etc. It's about your business model and all those things. All of those things can be innovated.

And I think people have this illusion that the great innovators of this world, you know, they, wake up one morning and they offer suddenly you've got this incredible idea and they run off and they make things happen, you know?

And, and I think that's one other thing that I wanted to mention earlier is innovation is it's not about the CEO's idea. It's about the team. And who's got the best ideas in the team.

And if you’re a CEO or COO, etc, if you can’t listen to your people and say um, you know, and get to the best ideas, then you're on the wrong track in the season. And I see many, many, many companies fail because of the fact that somebody high up in the organization got an idea.

An idea it's like a child. You see? So you see you don't want anybody to tell you your child is ugly. You know, and so when the CEO comes up with an idea, subordinates, they're not going to say, well, we think it's a bit of an ugly child, you know, we don't like this idea. So the question is how do you create an environment where you create lots of children and cocreate them together effectively in the sense of ideas?

And then choose the best ones because that's the recipe for success. Co-creation of those ideas, and let the top ideas rise to the top and that's how the top innovative companies in the world that that's how they do it.

[01:03:33] Where to Focus Innovation

You know obviously a business needs to think about their top frictions. It doesn't help you to solve a lot of things or come up with a lot of innovations with no relevance, a little gadget what I call a little gadget that nobody's going to use. A business should be focused and say, here are, my top frictions.

Here are the issues that we need to solve. Now as soon as you allocate all the brainpower of your organization into those frictions, suddenly you're going to get your people to think about them etc. and now you've got them focused.

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