Cultivating innovators – how can South Africa produce a nation of original thinkers?


According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, approximately 7% of South Africa’s adult population is involved with entrepreneurship activities at any one time.  In order for this to increase, and for the targets of the National Development Plan to be reached, original thinking and creativity are just two of the things that need to be addressed.


Aurora Chisté, founder of Hack for Big Choices, a global movement that empowers entrepreneurs to solve local problems, is not alone in believing that the African continent is capable of high-impact innovation and transformation. Myles Thies, head of Strategic Services, at Eiffel Corp, agrees that entrepreneurship is the key to a thriving economy and original ideas and solutions for local problems is how entrepreneurs are made.

Educator and psychologist, Adam Grant, is well-known for his research on what he calls “originals”—creative people who take action to put their ideas out into the world.

“A safe environment to fail, regular feedback with a system that draws out original thinking along with supportive and enabling government policies are crucial if we are to nurture the pool of entrepreneurs that our country desperately needs,” mused Thies.

A tool that moves originality forward is Turnitin’s Feedback Studio that supports a learning environment where students take ownership of their ideas and produce original content.

“This process prepares them to succeed academically and innovate beyond the classroom,” said Thies.

More than 30 million students at 15,000 institutions in 140 countries use Turnitin to promote original thinking. Turnitin’s originality checking service shows instructors, and students, exactly where student content matches or mirrors others’ written work. More importantly, it empowers students to evaluate the underlying ideas and more clearly express their own.

When institutions give students access to such a tool, the results add up. Unoriginal writing decreased by 43.8 percent in an analysis of millions of papers submitted  over a five-year period in South African higher education. (Turnitin, 2015)

“Turnitin helps educators build on this foundation of integrity with tools to engage students in the original writing process, provide personalized feedback, and assess student progress over time. These feedback loops encourage students to reflect on their ideas, revise their writing, and continuously improve their outputs,” added Thies.

This iterative approach to learning how to write and express ideas is foundational for future entrepreneurs. Successful South African entrepreneur Neftaly Malatjie, Director of Diepsloot Youth Projects, says that there is no shortage of ideas, but there is a need to give young entrepreneurs the skills to put their ideas into action.

To build these skills, students need targeted practice and ongoing support from their instructors—but busy educators find it challenging to deliver rich feedback in a timely and fair manner.

“The beauty of Turnitin Feedback Studio is it helps bridge the gap with integrated pedagogical tools, such as the ability to just click to add text or voice comments and easily link them to specific learning objectives in a rubric. Some of the more routine aspects of marking papers are automated, which gives teachers more time to focus on guiding students with specific feedback on how to improve. “

By simplifying and improving the feedback loop, it’s easier to make revisions an integral part of the learning process.

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