Collaborative Innovation: A Personal Journey

Collaborative Innovation: A Personal Journey

After the army, I moved to South Africa, became a stockbroker, and met my future wife, Maggie, within one week of arrival. Being madly in love, I didn’t pay much attention to politics, only vaguely aware that there was racial tension in the air. We married in 1970 and after two years had the chance to go to Hong Kong, where we made many Chinese friends. I was there when President Nixon made his historic visit to China and most everyone was excited about the future. Today, I see the months and months of unrest that has now turned violent; with no end in sight.

After Hong Kong, we lived in London, UK, where we bought a business in the energy field. This was disrupted by the oil crisis following the “Yom Kippur” war. The Government dictated which three days you could open the business, there simply wasn’t enough coal fired electricity to go around. The business went bankrupt, but somehow we survived, with our first child born in the midst of much disruption.

We started a pizza business and had great fun with our mobile food truck at rock concerts, being a big hit with the vegetarian hippies. I vaguely remember some changes in government from Conservative to Labour, but I was too preoccupied and too young to really know what was going on. I look now at the British Government’s three-year odyssey of Brexit fulminations, and wonder how this can be; such a rent in the fabric of day-to-day governance that nothing gets done, while politicians squabble and shriek, putting self before country.

We finally made enough money to buy airfares back to South Africa where we had some property and money; money that we were unable to use overseas because of capital controls. It was now, having lived in other countries, that I began to have some perspective on the apartheid government and the realization that this surely must come to an end, but how? Would it take the low road of escalating violence or the high road of reconciliation? Fortunately, many years later, a man with forethought and courage, President De Klerk, let Nelson Mandela out of prison and started the process of one man one vote democracy that got fulfilled in 1994.


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About the Author

Robert Noyes SmithRobert Noyes Smith: Rob served as an army officer in the Kings African Rifles and SAS. He and his wife Maggie have lived in five countries and have three sons born on three different continents. As well as extensive corporate consulting experience he and Maggie have owned and operated four businesses in three different countries. He now concentrates on executive coaching and writing. From 1996 to 2000 Rob was a Vice President with Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group.

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