STI drive: Innovation Leadership needed for Innovators’ Effectiveness!

Patrick Katagata Jr. (Secretary – Strategic Science Advisory Council and Thinktank)

When I consider what exponential socio-economic transformation has accrued from innovations in developed nations, I am convinced that innovation should be the in-thing for Uganda. True as for a person stuck by an innovative idea, American physician, poet, and polymath, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., noted: “A man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” From then on, preferences change until ideas become reality. Churning a tangible innovation from ideation is achievable only through painstaking strategies transcending the dreamer. Except for mediocrity, no one, however gifted, single-handedly yields functional innovation. The process has manifold and complex demands, but with synergies, work becomes easy!

To elucidate illustrate innovation leadership, let me liken innovation with child conception, birth, through to functional adulthood. First of all, not all women can conceive, go through full-term pregnancy, birth, and raise mature children. Some never conceive or do, but lose their pregnancies, suffer still-births, or infant mortality, etc. To conceive, let alone nurture useful adults is a blessing to be carefully cared for, to yield. The same applies to innovation ideas people conceive: meticulously cared for, they mature; mishandled, die prematurely. In nurturing innovations from ideation to churn tangible or economically viable products, may renowned American author and leadership expert, John Calvin Maxwell’s line, “Everything rises and falls on leadership,” suffice.

Innovation Leadership is one specifically focusing on Innovators’ Effectiveness by cultivating strategic fitness to enhance performance. Like general leadership, it encompasses: championing of ideas; goal-setting; planning; organizing; resource mobilization and management, including staffing; showing and motivating others to follow the way, or giving direction. Of course, each of these—and others implied, have extensions, which, humanly speaking, are unattainable through vision-bearers alone. Inadvertently, it becomes inevitable that they work with and through others to achieve their dream.

One extremely important aspect about leadership that many people often ignore is Stewardship. Leadership ought to bolster qualitative and quantitative transformation. Furthermore, the aforementioned John Calvin Maxwell also observed that, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk,”—may not achieve much, if at all. In developing effective functional teams, the Latin maxim, “Nemo dat quod non habet”, which transliterates for “No one can give what they do not have”, becomes very significant. No one can teach others to take charge of their lives, let alone, innovations and/or other projects without first credibly exemplifying it with their own lives. Personal leadership is a critical starting point. It entails taking charge of your own life and responsibilities.

In Uganda, for example, I am amazed at the great strides on electric cars, Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC), in such a short time compared to other innovations both within and beyond. But it is no miracle. No, it has a lot to do with the originator, Prof. Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa’s leadership style and outlook to things. He is proactive and has found the secret in mentoring and selflessly working the youthful professionals, who have ably picked up the vision and run functionally with it. Some originators who cling to their ideas and find power in exercising control may not do as much!

Going back to the conception versus ideation analogy, to sustain pregnancy, birth healthy babies and fruitfully grow them, women need first of all, healthy and supportive male partners (or with innovation, specimens from suchlike). In Science, Technology, and Innovation [STI], these are equated to Innovation Champions, whom at best, should national leaders such as President. In Uganda, Gen. Museveni has done laudably well as an STI Champion! Secondly, such women need strict personal discipline. Pregnancy often demands a shift from usual ways: feeding; exercising; stress management; etc. But they also need excellent obstetricians; baby-seaters—who, in this case, is the Minister for Science, Technology, and Innovation, plus, the entire Secretariat and Stakeholders.