Innovation will be key for the next generation

Muzi Kuzwayo
Muzi Kuzwayo

Every era comes to an end. In Cuba, the Castro era is finally over as Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez takes over the reins of government. When Fidel Castro and his army of 82 men crash-landed in Cuba aboard the Granma yacht to overthrow Fulgencio Batista and his army of 40 000 men, Díaz-Canel wasn’t even born yet.

Likewise, as South Africans, we need to start thinking about post-struggle leadership for the young men and women who didn’t experience the horrors of apartheid.

I am not talking about the born-frees who heard their older siblings tell horror stories, but about those who won’t even hear about them from their grandparents.

These are unlikely to be sympathetic to our ideals of equality and nonracialism.

The pain of anti-apartheid politics will be foreign to them, and since this country revels in its convenient amnesia, it will suit them to forget. With no common enemy or anything to glue them together, they’ll most likely to be divided and weak.

The best legacy that we can leave future generations is creativity and the ability to innovate. Innovation must be ingrained in our education because, when a generation is innovative, it can successfully solve the challenges of its time.

It will not rely on the crutches of history to run a technologically advanced race.

But innovation is like religion – it is easier to profess than to practise. It can also be tricky.

When some young, clever engineers came to Henry Ford, proposing new clocks, he said: “I see no advantage in these new clocks. They run no faster than the ones made more than 100 years ago.”

A lot of what is considered innovation is, in fact, imitation. The most popular term these days is to “Uberise your business”.

There is no doubt that Uber has made travel easy for a lot of middle class people, but not every business can do that.

Some have to be in the background, doing dirty business, such as the company that invented double-ply toilet paper, a luxury that many people cannot live without.

Pleasers are never good innovators because innovation requires discipline and stiff-necked courage to challenge the powerful.

Our post-apartheid society got two bad ends of the revolutionary bargain.

When the revolutionaries got into power, they were trapped by it and protocol. Meanwhile, the people equated discipline with oppression.

Power corrupts, as the saying goes, protocol stifles innovation and, even worse, it keeps the leaders in the dark, sheltered from the disgruntlement caused by reality. Discipline is the path to achievement and it is often hard.

So one part of our society is preoccupied with protocol, while the other lacks the necessary discipline to achieve the things we want.

As a result, our gains as a society are withering in the exceptionally harsh environment where unfettered capitalism continues to triumph over ubuntu, and conspicuous consumption is claiming victory over modesty.

The job carnage will continue as we go deep into the fourth industrial revolution, but the stomachs will not stop working.

The need for shelter, clothing, health and education will remain at a time when there is little money.

The gap between the rich and poor will widen even further, and the only way to stop it is through revolutionary thinking that will equip future generations with the necessary knowledge for the new era.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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