Why you should be a Futurist too

Without being too technical in my definition; a futurist is basically a thinker who plans for the future. He assesses the trend and situation of things today and with that make judgments and decisions that will position him to lead tomorrow.

Mary Kay Ash believes that there are 3 types of people- those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wondered what happened. Futurists belong to the group of those who make things happen.

Sometimes it feels like all the big things that will ever happen in the world has happened already and there is little or nothing more that we can do. The truth is that it felt that way a few hundred years ago and look at how far we have come since then. Yes a lot has been done but yet, a lot more can still be done.

The next Bill Gates wont likely built a software system nor will the next Mark Zuckerberg build a social network platform. What will they build? That’s the questions futurist try to answer and is one you should ponder on too.

Futurists belong to the group of those who make things happen.

Regardless of whatever industry you play in, there are 3 questions you can ask yourself if you want to be futuristic.

1.     What can I expect to happen in this industry? You can draw answers from this by considering certain industry historical data and trends and then drawing predictive inferences about the future from them.

2.     What other things could be made to happen? Not everything is captured in history and trends. You need to also be up to speed on current plans within your industry. What product line are your competitors planning? What government policies are in the pipeline and how can they affect things when they finally happen? How can you be innovative and be a game changer in your industry? What can your next big move be?

Sometimes it feels like all the big things that will ever happen in the world has happened already…… it felt that way a few hundred years ago and look at how far we have come since then

3.     What do I want to happen? What would I rather have happen in this industry and how can I make it happen. Are there things I need to stop or are there things I need to join. What are the resources I need and who are the people that can help me build that future that I desire.

Our ability to provide answers to these questions will go a long way in helping us take vantage positions in the future that is beginning to happen daily. Statements about the future describe possibilities, probabilities or preferences. They help with good planning and good planning is always a good way to go.

Our Wrong Approach to Innovation

In our quest as a nation and continent to stop being BUYERsellers but rather SELLERbuyers, the drive and push to create and innovate things is greater now than ever. People are being encouraged to look past the theory they are being taught in school and get practical with the knowledge they get; to look past seeking jobs where there are none to creating jobs others can find. We are in the long awaited era of creative and innovative African entrepreneurs.

We’ve gone past the period where we thought that creativity and innovation was a white man’s thing; that the answers to our problems will only come from outside our shores as a nation and continent. We now know that it is our duty to take responsibility for our growth and development and that it is dutiful for us to contribute to world development for we have the capacity to do so.

Yes we now know, but knowledge has never been enough. How do we then make the change, what course of action should we take? What is our strategy? If we have a strategy, are we doing it the right way and what are our chances of success with our present direction?

Yes we now know, but knowledge has never been enough

Typical innovation news we hear in Nigeria goes like this- 7 Unizik students produce automobile bus with local material; Enugu boy builds airplane without engine, 3 Kwasu students built a rocket prototype, etc. while these are all credible achievements that are perhaps worth celebrating, they are still a far cry from the best we are capable of. They are good enough, but good enough they say is never good enough. Those stuffs are good enough for museums but not real life markets.

Innovation-Africa

A good footballer doesn’t go to where the football is; he goes to where the football is going. The problem with those inventions we are celebrating is that they are not even where the world’s ball is at the moment, the world has far gone past those things. It’s like we are playing catch up with the past. How are we ever going to make progress that way?

It’s like we are playing catch up with the past.

We need to stop creating what others have created and stop solving problems that have already been solved. That is not innovative, it is only being re-inventive. While that isn’t a bad thing, I believe that we are capable of better things. Worse still, these catch-up products of ours are still of no quality based advantage when in comparison with the originals we copy.

Our university system also has a similar problem. Final year students are encouraged to work on thesis other people have worked on before. So it’s a copy-and-paste exercise for them. They are not encouraged to champion new frontiers and make new discoveries. They are trained to follow rather than lead. (Again, most of these research works end up in shelves somewhere not really contributing to global knowledge or advancement in their field)

Africa has unique problems; Africa can produce unique solutions

All these can change. Africa has unique problems; Africa can produce unique solutions. To really get to the level we are capable of as Africans, we need to do these things

  1. Stop playing catch up with the past– We need to be charge up our curiosity and ask questions- questions about the future; the future of any field we are playing in. We need to figure out where the ball is going and map out ways and means of getting there before the ball does. Only then can we be reckoned with as good players and only then can we score innovative goals
  1. Even if we’d tackle the same problems that others are tackling; We should do it better. I understand that some needs are universal and generational. People would always have to eat, move around, shelter and cloth themselves. But we don’t have to solve these problems the way they have always been solved. We can solve them in a more distinctive, efficient and timely manner. Our offerings become more valuable that way.

Great new innovations are usually high on two things. The first is the solution or value they provide; second is their divergence from the norm. You and I are capable of creating such solutions; we are capable of delivering on our duty towards world development and prosperity for all of mankind.

Be Great!

Afolabi Soaga

 

 

 

The 1 thing all creatives have in common

A study of the top 50 game-changing innovations over a 100 year period is reported to have shown that nearly 80% of those innovations were sparked by someone whose primary expertise was outside the field in which the innovation breakthrough took place.

Post-it notes, Xray, penicillin, saccharin, and even cornflakes are all stumbled-upon inventions; some of which were done by someone completely outside their field of expertise. Firework for instance, is believed to have been invented by an unknown cook in china…do your research 😉creativity-1452t3r

That says a lot to me about creativity. So imagine yourself teaching in a secondary school somewhere In the north for NYSC and then you stumble on an engineering breakthrough innovation while at it.

‘lol’. You say. ‘That rarely happens’. True! But it could happen. That’s what that study I started with tells us- that you can find the most amazing things in this most unexpected places. I’ll now tell you how you can make such happen.

you can find the most amazing things in this most unexpected places

The one important key to unleashing creativity and creating innovations is resourcefulness. Resourcefulness doesn’t necessarily mean having so many resources but rather being able to make useful whatever resource you have available.

Sticking to our example of a teaching role during your NYSC program – Yes you won’t have access to technological labs or resources; but you’d have access to other resources like textbooks, rudimentary tools, local technologies, and people with unique problems. Resourcefulness asks you a question of what you can do with what you have at hand!

Resourcefulness asks you a question of what you can do with what you have at hand!

To be resourceful, you’d have to look beyond what your resources can do and has done to what they haven’t done but can possibly do. You’d have to THinK- Think possibilities. Think function and not reputation; think ‘CAN’ and not ‘HAS BEEN’.

I recently boarded a bus for a long distance journey. Sitting beside me was an elderly woman. She sat close to the window and had to deal with the problem of the harsh sun rays which fell directly on her through the window. What she did was remarkable. She pulled out her scarf from her bag and made it into a curtain. Problem solved!

Think function and not reputation; think ‘CAN’ and not ‘HAS BEEN’.

That looks like a no brainer right? But I think it really illustrates my point. She was resourceful with what she had. She looked beyond the reputation of her scarf which has always been that thing she ties on her head for fashion sake to some function it could perform. She looked beyond what it has always done to what it could possibly do. She looked beyond the rules, broke them, and created new rules and that solved her problem.

Creative people have little regards for reputation and status quo. They think little of what can’t be and what has always been. They think more about what can be and what hasn’t yet been. They are futurethinkers; possibility-makers. They are resourceful and you can be too.

They think little of what can’t be and what has always been. They think more about what can be and what hasn’t yet been.

BE Great!

a white lie fed to black men

One lie most of we black have grown up believing is that the white race made life better for us. So we think they are a superior race. Despite all the campaign against such silly thoughts, many people where I’m from still believe the same. We think that as long as it is white, then its right; or that if it is from the UK then it must be really OK; and that if it is from abroad then it is divinely from above; but men…….all this is really not always true.

They told us that the white man gave us electricity. I say False! Edison and Tesla did. The white man didn’t give us Microsoft, bill Gates did. And like bill said in an interview once, he wasn’t the only white kid that had the resources, information and opportunity he had then, million other whites also did. But bill (1 individual person) started the company Microsoft. The white man didn’t give us airplanes, the wright brothers did. They didn’t give us what has been termed the next best gift to mankind after Jesus- Google; Larry Page and Sergey Brin did. I like million other young men love the video game; but that also was not the white man’s invention; Ralph Baer did. E-mail was by Ray Tomlinson, camera by Stephen Sasson, and our beautiful Facebook was by mark Zuckerburg; not the white man. Indeed, all these men I’ve mentioned thus far were white in colour, but their colour wasn’t what produced the solutions and inventions, rather their hard work and geniuses which are exclusive of their race did. So I won’t attribute those inventions to the white race rather, to the men who worked hard to make them realities.

Creativity is inherent in every man God made. In the bible book of Genesis, we are told that we are all created in his image. Men, women, children, aged, black, white, Hispanic, tall, short, potbellied, hour glass shaped, and every other categories and human types in between; we are all created in the image and likeness( i.e. similitude which refers to the very substance that makes up his being) of our creator.

In the same chapter of the book of Genesis, we see that one major feature or characteristic of God is creativity. That’s what he is and that’s what we all are- creative and innovative. Many of us have lost touch with that part of us due to our dogmatic daily routines and other creativity-killers we are involved with, nonetheless, that doesn’t change the fact that it is in us- both white and blacks.

Let’s take this a bit further. Men of African descent have also made their own inventions. Did you know that the Air conditioning unit was made by Frederick M. Jones in July 12, 1949. Richard Spikes made the automatic gear shift in February 28, 1932. The cellular phone was invented by Henry T. Sampson in July 6, 1971. The elevator was by Alexander Miles(the man in the picture below), fire extinguisher by   T. Marshall, guitar by Robert F. Flemming, Jr., hair brush by a 19th century woman named Lydia O. Newman. Walter B. Purvis made the hand stamp, Sarah Boone invented the ironing board, the lantern was created by  Michael C. Harvey. The lawn mower was invented by  L. A. Burr. Refrigerator, spark plug, tricycle and even the type-writer were all made by people whose skins were black.
Don’t get me wrong, I must say the black man didn’t any of the inventions I have thus far listed in the previous paragraph, noble men and women who fortunately had black skin did. So don’t say that the black man invented the traffic light, because it was actually Garrett Morgan who had a black skin who did.
So it is really not a function of their race or skin colour. Its about who we are and who God has made us. He made us all equal, no one is superior to the other. I must admit that they have a structure over there (abroad) that allows people reach their potentials better than we have here. All the black inventors I have mentioned and the ones I have also omitted probably made their inventions in the white man’s land……but even that isn’t a function of location but rather of the systems and the individual and collective men and women that made those systems. (there is this stuff I heard that if we move all the Americans and relocate them to some parts of Africa, and do the same to those Africans by moving them to America; in a few years’ time, those remote places in Africa will become as America…and America will become in most ways as the Africa we have today. It’s just a thing about our mind-sets)

We Africans can imagine, and so we can invent, we can innovate, we can create. Yes we can! If we can, we should; if we should, we must. So lets arise o ye Africans. Its time to write new chapters in the books of history……..chapters about a glorious Africa; a Africa of good people, great nations, new inventions and innovations. A Africa that is not just receiving from all others, but rather one that is making solid contribution to the development of the global world and the achievements of the goals and objectives of the entire humanity.

Soaga Afolabi Olusegun.
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