Leaders Need to Inspire Innovation for Sustainable Competitive Advantage


Clive Carpenteris the Vice Chairman, Business Council for Africa, UK. He is an international banker and company director with a proven track record in management at board level. He has specialist skills operating in Kenya and Nigeria, countries with which he maintains extensive contacts at all levels. In this interview, he shares actionable insights on how leaders can inspire innovation in their organisations to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. Excerpts:



What is TEXEM?

These Executive Minds (TEXEM), UK offers customised executive education programmes and executive sourcing for their clients and TEXEM has an impeccable track record off adding value to many clients across a wide range of sectors. Also, TEXEM and its world class faculty partners have a very good grasp of contextual realities of develop countries and (Africa vis-à-vis fragile institutions, resource dependence, limited infrastructure and the huge size of government)-Thus, these world renowned faculties could share insights of lessons learnt from the mistakes that organisations in developed countries made when they were experiencing similar contextual realities that African organisations are presently undergoing. The company has an impressive track record on customer satisfaction with 60% of her delegates being repeat customers-This is commendable for a company that offers an ‘intangible’ service.

 TEXEM’s forthcoming programme on Inspiring an Innovative Organisation for Sustainable Competitive Advantage would be delivered by me and Professor RodriaLaline (Visiting Professor of Harvard, Insead and IESE) at the British Deputy High Commissioner’s residence on the 26th and 27th of July. (For more information, please email exec@texem.co.uk or visit https://texem.co.uk)

This training is very important for organisations to understand the many vista of innovation methodologies they can use to provide strategic repositioning of their organisations, especially in this critical time in terms of return on investment, staying afloat and forging ahead. We look forward to having C-suite executives from various organisations as participants as they will be exposed to several contextually relevant case studies second to none.

Through this programme participants would be able to build a culture of creativity (structure, strategy,value chain and business model), lead successful innovation initiatives in different areas of their organisation and target areas that require strategic advancement to achieve breakthrough performance for sustainable competitive advantage.

What sets TEXEM apart from the competition?

To answer your question, please allow me to share with you some of TEXEM’s unique selling points:

  • Good reputation in offering tailored, relevant and context-rich executive education programmes which is relevant and has impact on the bottom line.

  • Network of key stakeholders in Europe and North America that TEXEM have worked with in the past, which the company could deploy towards delivery of executive development programmes.

  • Impressive track record on customer satisfaction with 60% of her delegates being repeat customers-This is commendable for a company that offers an intangible service.

  • Understanding of the challenges that organisations face and committed, distinguished advisory board, which have a passion for the growth of Africa.

  • Great networking opportunities with very senior executives as participants have over six hundred years of experience of participants and faculties in every programme thus steepening the learning curve of participants via peer to peer learning moderated by world renowned faculties.

How can a leader successfully lead an organisation in times of uncertainty and limited resources?

Leadership is leadership be it in good times or in bad, what is different is the speed of action required of leaders in turbulent times. The Leader needs to continuously monitor and maximise cash, tightly manage credit, carefully manage working capital as well as review and reform financial structure. Furthermore, in turbulent times, the leader needs to reduce costs, drive efficiency via innovation and focus on the top line-e.g. customers. The leader should constantly review product/service mix and pricing and where possible do things differently. Importantly, the leaders need to communicate to investors that they are ready for the worst case scenarios. Also, the leader should inform stakeholders that they have a view beyond the horizon.

Furthermore, it is critical that the leader has a clear vision of what the business is seeking to achieve, involving all employees and stakeholders in formulating that vision. It is essential that everyone works in unison to achieve the ultimate objective.
The leader then needs to provide the information, knowledge and methods to realise the vision and, at the same time, manage the conflicting interests of all the members
and stakeholders. These and more would be covered in TEXEM’s forthcoming programme later this month.


 How could organisational politics be properly managed for superlative results?

This subject commands a whole lecture but in brief : A leader must be totally honest and transparent using facts to support any argument and being willing to admit when
he or she is wrong; Base all arguments on what is in the best interests of the company; Agree to disagree when necessary; Minimise e-mail on sensitive matters and
engage in face to face, open dialogue; Praise freely when it is deserved and discipline when it is needed; Be scrupulously fair in all dealings with employees, where necessary
involving an independent third party to give an opinion; Accept that some employees are square pegs in round holes and have the courage to either move them to a more
appropriate position or to disengage them, especially if they become a disruptive or negative influence.

How can leaders develop culture that could help position their organisations for sustainable competitive advantage?

It is often held that a strong corporate culture is actually the only sustainable competitive advantage because, unlike a product which can be copied by others, a culture cannot
be easily duplicated in another organisation. This is because it relies on people to make it work and people cannot be duplicated. Each individual is unique.
An organisation’s culture is driven by strategy and by social and structural influences. Values, beliefs and behaviours need to be clearly articulated and constantly monitored.

The most fundamental element of corporate culture is the attitude of those within a company. When executives, managers, and indeed all employees are all ‘on the same page’,
it creates an inclusive environment, allowing free communication between everyone involved in the business.

How can a leader sustain his / her advantage in the market?

Well, my answer to question 3. above goes some way to answering that. However, beyond developing the appropriate corporate culture, there is a constant need for strategic review
and change in today’s world but within a business it is not something that should simply be dictated. The ideas and thoughts of all stakeholders should be taken into consideration.
Change needs a ‘cast of characters’, a ‘guiding coalition’ and employees need to be empowered to implement the changes that are agreed.

How can innovation be developed following the turbulent economic landscape?

Change and innovation go hand in hand in the creation of a sustainable and successful business and, of course, become especially important in times of economic turbulence.
No business can ever stand still – even if it is highly successful today, without change and innovation, it will not be successful tomorrow.

To quote a far greater expert than myself: ”Innovation embodies the improvement of something that has come before and is the evolution of convenience, efficiency and effectiveness.”

In fact, if you are not innovating, you are just waiting for the expiration date of your business.

There are a variety of different strategies that can be adopted for innovation and me and Prof Rodria will be covering those in my forthcoming presentations at TEXEM’s forthcoming executive education programme on Inspiring an Innovative Organisation for Sustainable Competitive Advantage.

How could innovation help the public sector?

Public sector innovation relates to creating, developing and implementing practical ideas that achieve a public benefit. The ideas should be new ones, not simply improvements,
that are useful. Innovation in the public sector is especially difficult to achieve because public sector employees are not encouraged or rewarded for being innovative – in fact
it might cost them their job. It is far easier and less risky to just go with the status quo. Another drawback is the lack of dedicated budgets, teams, processes and skills.

What advice would you offer the head of public organisations to enable them create opportunities for innovation?

My advice draws on my foregoing response. Put in place a reward and incentive system that will properly recognise good ideas for improvement and change, and progress them.
Have a dedicated budget and team of people (with the right skills) to process innovation and remove blockages that prevent the sharing of innovative ideas.

What Strategies can encourage developing creativity?

Truly creative people do not copy what others do. They create something unique and distance themselves from the competition rather than try to compete. They create something new and better.

Various strategies can encourage creativity and these include seeking to expand your knowledge base (CPD); Seeking new experiences to broaden your ideas; Not following the crowd; Learning to take
time to reflect on various possible strategies and not to rush forward without adequate consideration first – deferring judgement; Redefining the real problem or challenge – then you can begin to solve it.

Why does an executive need to attend TEXEM’s programme?

TEXEM has a proven track record in executive education and its alumni are vocal in confirming how TEXEM’s programmes have helped them.

All that participants need is the foresight and wisdom to know that they need professional guidance to assist them in today’s highly competitive business environment.

TEXEM can provide that professional guidance as so many have previously discovered. For this particular programme later this month, here are some reasons:

  • Learn how to inspire innovation that would help you successfully navigate this turbulent economic landscape and emerge stronger
  • Improve your Strategic quotient and ability to make better decisions
  • Improve your organisation’s ability to achieve sustainable competitive advantage
  • Enhance your ability to identify the opportunities inherent in the economic recession
  • Learn some of the mistakes of poorly implemented innovation from faculty and over 700 years of combined experience of faculties and delegates
  • Network with other executives on the programme, enhance social capital and develop partnerships
  • Potentially build a relationship with the British Deputy High Commissioner which could possibly lead to synergies with UK firms.

Do you think organisational challenges create better leaders?

Yes, certainly, challenges tend to bring out the best in people if such people are a good fit to the requirements of the job in the first place, i.e. you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!
If the leader is ‘a square peg in a round hole’ then he or she will not be attentive to developing problems. But for the right individual, challenges are a part of everyday management
that require innovative solutions and serve to push the leader to constantly improve performance.