Experts as Value Creators: Innovation in Action in Zimbabwe

Experts are value creators who can enable companies to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. With the ability to foster innovation and help drive corporate success, experts can make a meaningful impact that transforms an organization—and the world. So, what does value creation look like and how do they apply their knowledge and skills?

Innovation and Value Creation: The Eastgate Center

Innovation and value creation are often discussed as intertwined concepts. But their real-life application with experts may not always be apparent. Understanding the expert journey—from a spark of creativity to the effective execution of a plan—can help business leaders better recognize how critical expertise can benefit their company’s goals and increase their bottom line. The following story about the Eastgate Center, a 350,000 square-foot high-rise shopping center and office building in Zimbabwe, illustrates how experts use their knowledge, problem-solving skills, and resourcefulness in creating value.

The Business Challenge

In 1991, the architect Mick Pearce was hired to design Eastgate Center in Harare, Zimbabwe, the country’s capital. The catch? Although the climate in Harare typically requires year-round cooling, the building investors didn’t want to pay for air conditioning. The challenge for Pearce was to create a self-regulating cooling system that would keep the temperature of the center comfortable-without relying on a mechanical ventilation system.[1]

The Innovation and Solution

The innovation and solution came from an unusual source: Pearce’s inspiration sprang from watching a nature show about the nesting mounds built by fungus-farming termites in Africa.[2] In their mounds, which can be as high as 30 feet, the insects create their own air conditioning systems that circulate hot and cool air between the nesting structures and the outside. To achieve this, the termite mounds include an elaborate system with chimneys and openings that work like windows.

Working with engineers, Pearce and his colleagues studied the mounds to understand the insect “engineering.” Using high-resolution scanning technology, as well as computer and physical simulations of the nests, they were able to design a building that mimicked the termites’ climate-controlled mounds. The result was a structure that relied on a combination of construction materials, passive airflow openings, and rooftop chimneys that keep the building comfortable despite any outdoor temperature fluctuations.

The Meaningful Impact

In a warming world, as architects, engineers, and builders seek innovative ways to cool buildings without using more energy, the design of the Eastgate Center offers an energy-efficient solution that uses passive cooling. Here are some of the building design’s important benefits:[1,3]

  • 35% less energy use compared to similar surrounding buildings
  • Creation of a 90% climate-controlled office and shopping center
  • Less expensive rents than nearby buildings due to energy costs savings
  • Model for natural passive cooling in commercial and residential buildings

Although your company’s experts may not find their inspiration from termites, it’s important to understand, support, and value the vital contributions they can make to the strategic advantage and success of your company.


[1] Klein, J. (2019, March 26). What termites can teach us about cooling our buildings. The New York Times.

[2] Ask Nature. (n.d.) Passively cooled building inspired by termite mounds.

[3] National Geographic. (2018, May 29). See how termites inspired a building that can cool itself | Decoder [Video]. YouTube.

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