Seeing the Leaves

A lifelong life skill How to generate innovative new ideas on a daily basis and why this is so important for you, your work and your family’s future

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Seeing the Leaves

A lifelong life skill

How to generate innovative new ideas on a daily basis and why this is so important for you, your work and your family’s future.

Welcome all. How I usually start is with a little story. How many of you have seen the wine farms in Cape Town?

If you can imagine it, the wine farms are as green as far as the eye can see, with hanging grapes.

Now do you remember a few years back when there were farms strikes in South Africa? Many of these strikes were due to poor working conditions on farms as well as exploitation.

However even before that time a wine farmer called me and asked me to come to his farm to solve a problem he had..

The problem was how does he get his farmers to work for twelve months of the year, rather than the two months that it takes to pick grapes leaving the farmworkers redundant for the other ten months.

So I drove to the farm and I saw the green leaves of the vines everywhere. The farmer and I sat on his balcony sipping wine and eating. A little more wine. And a little more! No it wasn’t the wine that gave me the inspiration, but I said to the farmer pointing at the vineyards…there’s your solution after about twenty minutes. Now the farmer had no clue what I was talking about.

Do you think you know what the new product was that I could see but the farmer couldn’t!? (who just happened to be a fourth generation wine farmer and had been staring at the same vines his whole life).

So after a few poor guesses by the farmer I told him.

It’s the leaves!

The farmer had no idea you could take the vine leaf and brine it where it becomes edible and wrapped in a rice mixture becomes a dolmades a greek and meditteranean delicacy.

After falling off his chair (and it wasn’t the wine!) the farmer realized he had millions of leaves on his farm and a free input. So he got on a plane and went to Greece, learning how to make the dolmades and returned to set up a factory so his workers could work all through the year.

The Farmer paid me in very expensive wine and I left to go home thinking to myself that I’m a genius.

But the story does not end there.

As I was driving the one hour journey home I thought to myself what do farmers in South Africa do with their banana leaves? Most farmers do nothing but in India they produce the Bidi a dried and rolled cigarette that is smoked by millions of people and its organic!

Now I had two new ideas in only a small amount of time and I thought again…what do you do with the green leaves of the mielie (corn) plant? Again in South Africa they are chucked or left to go brown but in many parts of the world and especially Mexico they take that leaf and wrap it in fish and spice and its called a Tamale. Again a massive lost opportunity for the farmers of South Africa.

All through the journey back home I kept thinking of new things to market in South Africa that didn’t exist here opening up new markets and job opportunities. By the time I got home I had ten new business opportunities.

I asked myself the question…what was I doing here?


SEEING THE LEAVES has and is my mantra for Innovation.

So I asked myself the question, how come I could see the leaves and the farmer couldn’t? and I realized that somehow I had trained myself to “see the leaves” or see in a different way. Training yourself by reading newspapers

I realized then that I had trained my eye to see the leaves simply by reading newspapers in a very particular way.


So why use newspapers to see the leaves or train your eye to find innovation? The newspapers are amazing for a number of reasons.

Firstly a newspaper occurs in every part of the world, everyday, without fail. Imagine the number of stories across the globe in every newspaper every day. This means that the actual volume of information in all the newspapers of the world is absolutely phenomenal.

But as an entrepreneur and innovator I look for stories that have problems ( which ironically is why people don’t like reading newspapers) so I can then seek innovative solutions. And the newspaper is littered with problems!

The job of the journalist I realized is to write the facts. The job of the entrepreneur is to take these facts and data and stories and try and come up with new innovative business solutions.

The newspapers are also amazing because you can read them anywhere!

The other thing I realized about newspapers is that they have the most awesome, big bold pictures. So when I look for “seeing the leaves” I look at the whole picture not the content of the picture. I look at all the detail and all the background because somewhere within the pictures will be a new and innovative idea.

The ideas from the newspapers are based and grounded in reality rather than brainstormed ideas. This reality based approach means that there is often a real need for a solution and innovation is often guaranteed.

The last thing I realized about newspapers is that you can read old papers to see the leaves. The reality is the old stories, the old problems, keep coming up because journalists will keep writing the stories if no one comes up with a solution. Once a solution is found journalists will generally stop writing the story and find new stories to write about.

When I look for new ideas I only ask one simple question:

What did you see (in the newspaper) and what’s your idea?

Who should attend?

  • C-level executives or senior leaders in charge of a business unit
  • Executives seeking to improve or adjust strategy in a given area (such as growth, differentiation and sustainability)
  • Senior innovators responsible for value creation and seeking insights into best practices
  • Heads of Sustainable Development
  • CEOs of small businesses
  • Entrepreneurs

To maximize the opportunity for learning and successful organizational implementation, we encourage executives and leaders to bring their teams – those responsible for generating impact – and attend the program together.

How long is it?

  • Full Day

What is the cost?

  • TBC

Who are the Facilitators?

  • This course is presented by Innovation Shack


Register Now!


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