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A no-BS guide to innovation

By LEE NAIK, TransUnion Africa CEO

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If there’s anything that my time as a digital transformation leader has taught me, it’s that everyone is a lot iffier about innovation than they let on. Every good business leader knows that innovation is necessary, but the truth is that we’re currently in an economy that doesn’t necessarily make that easy. South Africa’s 2018 GDP growth came in at 0.8% and with similar levels of growth projected for 2019 at best, it is understandable that business appetite for taking on questionable ROI projects is at a low. This inevitably results in innovation taking the backseat, again.

During a recent lecture I gave at the Gordon Institute of Business Science on Practical Lessons on Digital Transformation, the questions from the post-graduate audience from across the private and public sector got me wondering whether information was really being shared across the industry on what was working and what was not when it came to innovation.

Of course, if we get innovation right then we could be opening up new paths to business relevance and growth. It is without doubt impossible to remove risk from innovation – but it is possible to understand and execute it better.

So here’s my no BS take on innovation – the dos, the don’ts and the what-they-don’t-tell-yous. I would like to hear your feedback on additional lessons you may have learnt.

Who’s responsible for Innovation?

One of the biggest questions asked when it comes to innovation is who’s responsible for it? Is it the CEO, the CIO or the business leads? Innovation is everyone’s responsibility and not something that leadership owns. Of course, we need leadership’s commitment to drive innovation, but when everyone tries to innovate within their areas of responsibility across the operating model, then there is benefit to be had. We often forget that innovation does not always have to mean shiny and new – it can also be a change to how the business currently runs.

How do you show commitment to Innovation?

Innovation cannot be boxed into a 2 hour slot once a month – we need to intrinsically change the culture of the business and be committed to being innovative. This requires a multi-fold change to your approach to running the business including:• Removing the airs and graces of leadership and being open to ideas emanating from any part of the organisation – innovative ideas shouldn’t have boundaries• Create the opportunity for the business to periodically adjust commitments to budgets and take on new projects linked to innovative ideas that make sense for the business• Take the time to share and engage with all employees on what’s not working or where we think opportunities may lie – oftentimes ideas will show up from people you never thought would have such ideas• Take the time to teach employees simple techniques like Issue Base Problem Solving or Design Thinking to help them become part of the innovation culture• Create a platform for employees to showcase the innovation in existing town-halls and promote a culture of recognition for innovation, regardless of whether the idea will fail or succeed


Creating space for employees to be Innovative

It is all well and good that we show a commitment to Innovation and ask employees to be innovative during the course of doing their jobs. Sometimes, we need to stop and create space for our employees to engage with their colleagues on some of the challenges or opportunities that we need to focus on as a business. Some ideas that seem to work for many organisations include:• Creating regular time in the diaries for teams to reflect, engage and challenge the status of projects currently underway with a leadership commitment to stop ideas that don’t make sense anymore• Getting cross-functional teams into the same physical space from time to time to allow them to engage. Sometimes leaving leadership out of these engagements allows the teams to truly think through constraint free innovation


How do you Convince your Leadership to Take a Chance?

I come across many individuals during my industry engagements or during a talk that I am giving that ask me what they should do to convince the leadership of their company to be more committed to innovation. Below are some of the suggestions that seem to work:• Most business leaders do not understand innovation, technology or anything digital – a sweeping statement but not completely incorrect. Presenting your idea to the business leadership or even to the CEO in a language that can be understood is half the trick. Business leaders talk revenue, margins, market expansion, effectiveness, efficiencies and growth. To convince your business to support innovation may require you to take the time to learn a common language in which to present your idea• Traditional businesses do not like to be on the bleeding edge of anything and are happy to wait for innovative concepts to mature. Find case studies and even comparisons with what competitors may be doing to get your business leadership to stop and take notice of your idea. Some leaders react when they hear “Our competitors are already doing it”


How do you measure innovation success?

Innovation is a commitment to a new way of working. That new way of working should contain key metrics to figure out whether it’s working. In my experience, measuring innovation should be intrinsically part of how we measure productivity of the business. Some ideas to consider include:• How much time does business allow for employees to present ideas for innovation?• How many innovative ideas have been captured and how many have been adopted into the business product or project roadmap?• Are you measuring effectiveness and efficiencies in the business? This assumes you are baselining critical business processes and have a regular check in to say how the business is progressing.


How Do you Drive Innovation when the Budget is Limited?

Innovation seems to be a natural scapegoat when it comes to dealing with budget cuts. If it is meant to be part of the culture of your business, then it can’t be optional and shouldn’t be dropped in tough times. One of the techniques that I learnt back in my consulting days, is that there are always opportunities to create some form of costing savings through low hanging fruits. Most businesses that are getting innovation right take some of these savings to drive margin improvement or deal with other challenges but they always channel some of these savings to fund further innovation. In this way employees and teams are encouraged to find innovative ways to be more effective and efficient and create their own budgets to fund innovation – something that CEOs will sign up to all day long.

So that’s my start on some of the questions that businesses and need to consider to help us realise our potential.

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Huge appetite for foldable phones – when prices fall

Samsung, Huawei and Motorola have all shown their cards, but consumers are concerned about durability, size, and enhanced use cases, according to Strategy Analytics

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Foldable devices are a long-awaited disrupter in the smartphone market, exciting leading-edge early adopters keen for a bold new type of device. But the acceptance of foldable devices by mainstream segments will depend on the extent to which the current barriers to adoption are addressed.

Major brands have been throwing their foldable bets into the hat to see what the market wants from a foldable, namely how big the screens should be and how the devices should fold. Samsung and Huawei have both designed devices that unfold from smartphones to tablets, each with their own method of how the devices go about folding. Motorola has recently designed a smartphone that folds in half, and it resembles a flip phone.

Assessing consumer desire for foldable smartphones, a new report from the User Experience Strategies group at Strategy Analytics has found that the perceived value of the foldable form does not outweigh the added cost.

Key report findings include:

  • The idea of having a larger-displayed smartphone in a portable size is perceived as valuable to the vast majority of consumers in the UK and the US. But, willingness to pay extra for a foldable device does not align with the desire to purchase one. Manufacturers must understand that there will be low sell-through until costs come down.
  • But as the acceptance for traditional smartphone display sizes continues to increase, so does the imposed friction of trying to use them one-handed. Unless a foldable phone has a wider folded state, entering text when closed is too cumbersome, forcing users to utilize two hands to enter text, when in the opened state.
  • Use cases need to be adequately demonstrated for consumers to fully understand and appreciate the potential for a foldable phone, though their priorities seemed fixed on promoting ‘two devices in one’ equaling a better video viewing experience. Identification and promotion of meaningful new use cases will be vital to success.

Christopher Dodge, Associate Director, UXIP and report author said: “As multitasking will look to be a core selling point for foldable phones, it is imperative that the execution be simplified and intuitive. Our data suggests there are a lot of uncertainties that come with foldable phone ownership, stemming mainly from concerns with durability and size, in addition to concerns over enhanced use cases.

“But our data also shows that when the consumers are able to use a foldable phone in hand, there is a solid reduction of doubt and concern about the concept. This means that the in-store experience may more important than ever in driving awareness, capabilities, and potential use cases.”

Said Paul Brown, Director, UXIP: “The big question is whether the perceived value will outweigh the added cost; and the initial response from consumers is ‘no.’ The ability for foldable displays to resolve real consumer pain-points is, in our view critical to whether these devices will become a niche segment of the smartphone market or the dominant form-factor of the future. Until costs come down, these devices will not take off.”

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New exploit exposes credit cards on mobile phones

Check Point Security has found that handsets using Qualcomm chipsets that hold credit and debit card credentials are at risk of a new exploit.

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Now it’s more important than ever to update your phone.
Check Point security has found a vulnerability in mobile devices that run Android, which allows credit card details to be accessed by hackers.

Mobile operating systems like Android offer a Rich Execution Environment (REE), providing a hugely extensive and versatile runtime environment, which allows apps to run on the device. However, while bringing flexibility and capability, REE leaves devices vulnerable to a wide range of security threats. A Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is designed to reside alongside the REE and provide a safe area on the device to protect assets and to execute trusted code. Qualcomm makes use of a secure virtual processor, which is often referred to as the “secure world”, in comparison to the “non-secure world”, where REE resides. 

But Check Point “fuzzed” a “hole” into this secure world 

In a 4-month research project, Check Point researchers attempted and succeeded to reverse Qualcomm’s “Secure World” operating system. Check Point researchers leveraged a “fuzzing” technique to expose the hole. Fuzz testing (fuzzing) is a quality assurance technique used to discover coding errors and security loopholes in software, operating systems or networks. It involves inputting massive amounts of random data, called fuzz, to the test subject in an attempt to make it crash.

Check Point implemented a custom-made fuzzing tool, which tested trusted code on Samsung, LG, and Motorola devices. Through fuzzing, Check Point found 4 vulnerabilities in trusted code implemented by Samsung (including S10), 1 in Motorola, 1 in LG, but all code sourced by Qualcomm itself. To address the vulnerability, the runtime of Android needs to be protected from both attackers and users. This is typically achieved by moving the secure storage software to a hardware-supported TEE.

Check Point Research disclosed its findings directly to the companies and gave them time to patch vulnerabilities. Samsung patched three vulnerabilities and LG patched one. Motorola and Qualcomm responded, but have yet to provide a patch, and there is no confirmation of a release date yet.

Check Point Research has urged mobile phone users to stay vigilant and check their credit and debit card providers for any unusual activity. In the meantime, they are working with the vendors mentioned to issue patches.

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