The fast and ever-changing human demands coupled with emerging uncertainties such as the COVID-19 pandemic have served as a stuck reminder on the need to innovate. As a way of ensuring business continuity and sustainability, most organisations have had to embrace innovation with the majority integrating it in their operations, and processes.
However, while many organisations acknowledge how imperative innovation is to their operations and success of their businesses, awareness of the approach to achieve the same is an aspect that needs to be amplified. This raises the question how can organizations build their innovation culture.
A look into Kenya Electricity Generating Company’s (KenGen) innovation journey showcases some approaches that organisations can adopt. Since 2012, the company has received hundred of innovation proposals. At the same time, beyond ideation, KenGen has moved forward to making the innovations commercially viable contributing directly to the bottom line. Financially, KenGen has earned revenues to the tune of Ksh.2.6 billion from commercial innovation initiatives over the last nine years.
So how has the company managed to attain these milestones?
1. KenGen’s Innovation Platforms
Just like other innovative companies such as Google that have incubation programs, KenGen has nurtured a culture of innovation and structures within its operating environments to encourage and reward employee-led innovation.
The company has created innovation platforms such as Ignite, Global Innovation Seminars and Community of Practice and Innovation (COPI) whereby different ideas and concepts are born and nurtured to maturity.
For instance, as at June 2021 the Ignite Platform which gives employees opportunity to participate in future developments at KenGen through submission of ideas – has generated more than 532 innovative ideas since 2012, 16% of which are best practices for process improvement while 71 of the ideas are undergoing implementation process.
2. Rewarding Innovation
Reward, in simple terms, is anything given to people because of their contribution to the organization or areas of work. On the innovation front, KenGen has utilized rewards to motivate staff to bring on board more innovations under various categories.
Under this initiative, the company offers the following awards;
· Terawatt Award - This award goes to individuals or teams who implement innovation initiatives that result in new revenue generation.
· Gigawatt Award – This award goes to individuals or teams who implement innovation initiatives that result in cost savings.
· Megawatt Award – This award is given to individuals or teams who implement process improvement ideas that result in turn-around efficiency.
· Kilowatt Award – This award is given to exemplary leaders who go beyond the call of duty to support the implementation of innovation initiatives.
· Watt Award – This award goes to recognize individuals or team effort that had the courage to pilot, prototype or test an innovation initiative that did not result in success but lessons.
3. Creating a Project/Innovation Funnel
A Project Funnel enables participating entities to sieve or filter ideas from a general point of view to a workable state. At KenGen, the company has developed a funnel with five approaches which include Concept, Prefeasibility, Feasibility, Financial Appraisal and Development.
At the Concept stage, an analysis of the idea is done before it proceeds to the prefeasibility level whereby the best project options, both technically and financially is done. Thereafter, a detailed study on the feasibility study is undertaken to determine technical, financial and environmental feasibility. At this stage, a decision is made whether the project can be done or not.
Once a project has been approved at the feasibility point, financial appraisal is conducted and relevant stakeholders are involved. The development of the project then comes last. The final stage is the development stage whereby the project is implemented.
4. Embracing Innovation Leadership
The role of leadership in an organizational innovation journey is imperative. This aspect is what inspires others to innovate and bring out their best.
Organisations can emulate KenGen’s approach through which the company has a Strategy and Innovation Division which has a role of identifying and driving execution of strategic initiatives and growth opportunities across the business through research and development. At KenGen, focus on continuous improvement is key in driving the innovation agenda that develops new ways of meeting the company’s goals and aspirations.
Climate change has continued to dominate global headlines, with world leaders urging for quick action to stem its effects.
Even as the world calls for urgent action, Africa continues to suffer the worst of the impacts of climate change including droughts, floods, locusts and pest invasions. Speaking at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate which was held via video conference on April 22nd, 2021, head of African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Mr. Akinwumi Adesina said the Continent was the worst hit and that the financial institution had set aside $25 billion to climate finance over the next four years.
The on-going trends across the world demand for concerted effort to fight against climate change, and conserve nature, an expectation that places the challenge at the doorstep of Governments, institutions, corporate organizations and individuals.
Below are some the ways in which organizations can play a role in environmental conservation and in the process reduce the effects of climate change.
Planting More Trees
We all know that population growth and human activities have been a major catalyst to the receding amount of forest coverage. With the country experiencing long and short rains in different periods of the year, it is paramount to have more trees planted. With regards to efforts geared towards increasing the country’s forest coverage, Kenya Electricity Generating Company PLC (KenGen) has made considerable contribution. At Ngong Forest for instance, the company has planted about 7,000 indigenous trees on the forest’s 10 acres. In addition to this, the company has since 2014 distributed a total of 1,658,655 tree seedlings to communities. This has greatly supported efforts towards balancing the ecosystem in areas around where the company is undertaking power generation activities. That said, it is important to stress that increasing the number of trees in the country is a priority for the Government and other like-minded institutions. This is therefore one of the ways to boost plans by Government to plant 2 billion trees by 2022 to enhance the country’s forest cover and reclaim 5.1million Ha of degraded landscape.
Exploring Partnerships on Environmental Conservation
The fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly’s theme: “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” called for more efforts by individuals and organisations towards safeguarding the future. And, this is doable if organisations collaborate to make it happen. In this regard, between 2015 to 2020, KenGen partnered with Bamburi Cement Limited to execute the Green Initiative Challenge (GIC) for primary and secondary schools, an initiative which has led to the distribution of over 150,000 seedlings in more than 500 schools in Kitui, Machakos, and Embu County. This move has supported the creation of a sustainable environment.
Even as Governments, institutions, corporate organizations continue to plant trees, the biggest task remains to safeguard these trees. This requires establishment of ways of ensuring high survival rates for the trees which in the long run help in protecting the environment. Also of importance is ensuring environmental conservation efforts are embraced by all. This will go a long way in nurturing a culture of environmentalists who eventually transition to become advocates in their communities.
Implementing the 17 SDG Goals Collectively
Even with tree planting, it is important for organizations to adopt Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and work towards achieving them. These goals or targets adopted in 2015 by the United Nations Member States should not seem far off and a concern for a few. We should all work towards achieving them to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
Ultimately, these goals will lead the world towards a safer path while ensuring sustainable communities.
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