Having just completed my latest block of classes, the focus this time was on Entrepreneurial Management. My understanding of the more developed world seems to increase more and more against that of the developing. For instance, when someone decides to be an entrepreneur in Southern Africa, regardless of the reason, they’re pretty much convinced and have ensured that they’ve made provisions to attempt the challenge of entrepreneurship. Whereas in the UK for instance, someone who decides to start a business (profit or social), that’s only when they start exploring the opportunities.
This is an endless list I have come to realise in the gaps between the two kinds of contexts and what I have noticed as a young african, is that we’re so bound by challenge and circumstance by virtue of birth, that often the ideas we explore are discredited by the reality of bureaucracy, debt, education and most importantly, lack of psycho-social support; the kind that focuses on possibilities, ability and realising something as intangible as a dream. As a result, when the resolve of starting a business once you’ve ensured a security blanket, one has explored the most possibilities and outcomes that it is not the opportunist entrepreneur I learned about in class, but the businessman that is convinced of his concept.
I must say that innovation has increasingly become a hot topic amongst the conversations surrounding globalisation, artificial intelligence, big data and millennials such as myself, and its increasingly evident that there are many variations and definitions of the word and the concept respectively.
I could pull out all the academic theories and citations or even a dictionary but I’ve learned to understand the power of an uneducated man. The power of a man that has learned through risk taking, having faith and beating the odds. The kinds that have not gone to school and but give advice at the graduate ceremonies of those who are educated; the likes of Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson.
Then I look at all the African success stories and how they’ve been educated in foreign lands as if the raw talent that instigated their initiatives needed the harnessing of a western education. It is these same stories that seem to be tainted with a hint of political assistance, lack of sustainability and somewhat a ceiling in comparison to their western counterparts.
I say this because my understanding of innovation is doing the same thing in a different manner and doing different things in the same manner. Just in the way I had contrasted the contexts of African and Western, the key trigger for innovation is determination and understanding where you might lack as an entrepreneur. Putting the right skills by your side is essential, or rather gaining those skills just as essential; but in leadership, I have learned that you can harness this intangible phenomenon through allowing others to define their true talent.
I have said many-a-times that I am an ordinary person, but my ability to find faith in another’s strength rather than let it compromise my mandate or abilities, has truly allowed me to see that innovation is a growing effort of different minds, perseverance and certainly a lot of time.
Just as overnight success, it is something that is the accumulation of great effort, failure and determination. I am prepared to experience such a thing, even in the most trivial of moments – for when an idea comes to mind, the skill of building a concept around it, shall only be learned through the small steps I take on the long road.