VNI Consultants

Winner of the Management of Innovation Award in the category for emerging enterprises

Jumping to conclusions stands in the way of creative problem solving

They say it’s human nature to want closure. When something appears to have run its course, from a project to a relationship, we want it finalised, concluded, wrapped up, chapter closed, book snapped shut and computer turned off. With innovation, closure is the last thing VNI Consultants want.

“The temptation is to say, ‘Here’s the challenge, and here’s the solution’. But if you wait, you might find something even more innovative,” says founder and principal consultant Dr Pieter du Toit. “That’s why it’s important not to jump to conclusions. In our company, even when we think we have the answer, we wait and go through the question again.”

Resisting closure is officially part of the innovation process that VNI Consultants has put in place to keep its business consulting services at the cutting edge – which is the only way a small consulting firm can compete in an era of global giants.

A highly developed sense of curiosity and the willingness to keep searching and questioning when others might have stopped looking is behind the firm’s array of trademarked or patented products and services, such as its BlueAgile™ methodology for dealing with continuous change.

But let’s take a step back. Before getting to the (non-)closure stage of the innovation process, there’s a series of other steps that VNI pursues. “It starts with the free flow of ideas, where everyone engages and there are no rights or wrongs,” says Pieter. “As we collect more information, we try to prioritise the application of out-of-the-norm thinking.”

We’re all familiar, for instance, with the glass-half-full and glass-half-empty concept. Pieter looks at the glass differently. “Instead of filling the glass with fluid, how about using it as a paperweight?” he suggests. This kind of out-of-the-glass thinking can lead to all manner of innovations that might normally be overlooked.

Translated to a business context, an off-the-shelf open-source program or system could be put to uses that are far from common. A good example is VNI Consultants’ elegantly novel use of off-the-shelf systems to develop and launch its EduNomix range of training offerings (which include the Creative Problem Solving module that mirrors its own innovation processes).

“Off-the-shelf doesn’t mean there’s no room for innovation,” says Pieter, adding that the secret is to use what you have in ways others haven’t thought of. “The people in this organisation are constantly looking at what value can be derived from processes, systems, and structures. You’ll find them working late at night, early in the morning, and on weekends, not because they’re expected to but because it’s so exhilarating and exciting that they just want to get to the end.”

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