Stop talking, start producing
In the last four years, the average Nigerian has had a lot to say about the social, economic and political issues plaguing the country. From the political process that led to the election of the Buhari Government, the corruption scandals and revelations, Book Haram, the fall of the Naira, Recession, the illness of the President, IPOB, rampaging herdsmen, and much more, Nigerians have had a lot to talk about regarding the fortunes of our country, and often our idle chatter ends up being a lot of whining and complaining. My concern though is that while talking is therapeutic and can become a basis for creating ideas that can help, we need to move quickly from talking and ideating, not just to action but to the specific action of: producing.
So, the challenge I have for my readers and the Nigerian people this week is simple: What are you producing? What should you be producing? And What do you need to do to start producing? The truth be said, not everyone can become a farmer or own a cottage industry, fundamentally because people are talented in different ways and intrinsically motivated to pursue different things. The trick lies however in looking within the area of your interest or talent, and sparking the creativity within you to produce things there, or allowing your creative juices to wonder to the many opportunities that are out there. In the words of creative entrepreneur Richard Branson – “opportunities are like buses, there will always be another one coming”
So, where can you find these opportunities for creativity, innovation and production? It almost reminds me of the question that many Christians struggle with – do I have to be a priest or pastor to do God’s will? Not at all, but you can find opportunities within whatever job/vocation you pursue to serve God, and preach the good news of salvation. So too it is with creativity and innovation – you can look within your own sphere of operation and take advantage of the many opportunities that exist. One clear innovation model that I have found to be quite useful is copying – not just copying, but copying to replace imported products and services.
The model is simple and can be applied by just looking around your organization or your life and identifying products or services that you currently consume that are imported from abroad that you can perhaps produce by yourself, reducing your dependence on that overseas supplier and potentially creating a stream of income for yourself, if you can transform it into a commercial venture. For example, in my line of work, we depend a lot on stock photos from libraries hosted in Europe and the Americas. These stock photos are used to create graphics for our training workbooks, fliers, promotional materials and books. Not only are most stock photo sites filled with models that are not of African origin, and do not really reflect our cultural nuances, they all are quite expensive considering that subscriptions are made in US Dollars. My colleagues and I saw this an an opportunity, and launched our own stock photos site (www.africanstockphotos.biz) that is focused on African pictures – our primary goal was to take care of our own needs, with a secondary and even more potentially rewarding goal of supporting the needs of other organizations in Nigeria who are equally unsatisfied with the limited African pictures that the American and European websites offer as well as constrained by the rising cost of these subscriptions.
This example is just one of many things that we have tried out using this innovation model of copying – which is simply: look for something that you currently use that is imported, and work locally to substitute it. I believe this is what economists refer to as “import substitution”.
Another innovation model will be to follow the trends – what are the most popular trends in the society around you, and how can you respond to these trends. With the economic recession, the biggest focus for organizations now is how to trim the workforce without legal repercussions, so human resources consultants and lawyers can focus more in this area and offer training and advisory services to organizations along these lines. This model is all about spotting trends and re-jigging your organization to respond to these trends. It is about being “opportunistic” and adding value while you take advantage of opportunities.
Finally, another very useful innovation model is being disruptive: doing something that everyone had hitherto thought was difficult or impossible, and just being dogged and committed to doing it. The same model that inspired people like Roger Bannister to run the mile under 4 minutes; Barack Obama to become the first Black President of the United States; and Maria Curie to be the first woman to win the Nobel Prize. The interesting thing about this innovation model is that it opens a torrent of similar achievements from others, reflecting the words of popular American Evangelist, Billy Graham that: “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes the stand, the spines of others are often stiffened”
So, what are you going to do differently in your work, business or life to move beyond talking, complaining and whining to producing? Don’t let this week end without doing something to transform your life and our world.
Barrow is a teacher of strategy and innovation at the Abuja based Learning Impact NG