Thursday, 18 July 2013

Africa can feed Africa, Africa should feed Africa and Africa will feed Africa, says IFAD President #aasw6

When was the last time you thanked your boss for making your job easy?

Earlier today, my boss, Dr Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD),  delivered a passionate speech to the over 1200 participants of the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week in Accra, Ghana and received a standing ovation.

Thought provoking speeches that touch people's heart are rare. Words only come alive if they are delivered with flair and passion.

When this happens, you are on cloud nine!!!!! Because you are not only able to share soundbites that go viral on social media but also your job of rallying journalists and organizing interviews becomes easier.

This morning, I was lucky enough to experience this first hand. And believe me it was a rewarding experience.

After the inaugural session and the press conference, my colleague Daniela and I had to manage the assault of journalists who wanted to interact and interview the President.

The President's messages are being echoed by all the speakers who followed him. His messages and call for action are travelling beyond th conference hall in Accra and are travelling across the African continent.

This speech will be one that will be remembered and cited for many years to come.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Embracing the beauty and strength of diversity

When we talk about diversity, our default behaviour is to consider the visible aspects of diversity which unfortunately are limited to the usual stereotypes of culture, ethnicity, gender, race and religion. Yet, there is much more than meets the eye, as diversity is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted.

What humankind seems to struggle with are the invisible diversities - that is to say the personal traits (Character and personalities) and the personal truths. And maybe this is why we find it hard to embrace diversity in its totality.

I've been asking myself what is holding us back from leaving the comfort that we find in homogeneity so that we can embrace and celebrate diversity in its totality?

I keep asking myself what are the alluring characteristics of "friendly environment", as opposed to one that fosters innovation and creativity. Why do we consider a friction-less environment an asset and desired? 

Why is it that we want to adopt such a narrow-minded approach? Why are we failing to see that homogeneity is enemy of creativity and innovation?

I wonder why is that "leaders" go out of their way to surround themselves with people who are just like them. And why is that LEADERS with capital "L" cherish  DIVERSITY and surround themselves with and celebrate people who have different personal truths, personal traits and are different than them?

Guy Kawasaki in his book Enchantment talks about how diversity brings enchantment and suggests that a successful team is one that has:
  • an advocate (the champion)
  • a skeptic (challenges ideas)
  • a visionary (has a clear idea)
  • an adult (makes things happen)
  • an evangelist (sells the cause)
  • a rainmaker (closes deals)
Those of us who have had the luxury and privilege of experiencing diversity in its totality know that it is the catalyst for progress and innovation. We also know that homogeneity can lead to slow and painful death.

So how do we change the tide? How can we champion and advocate for embracing diversity of ideas, personal truths and personal traits? How can we show that homogeneity stifles progress and creativity? How do we show respect for diversity without paying lip service to it?

P.S. I just came across this great Harvard Business Review (HBR) article entitled "Creating the best workplace on earth" and found the first question of their "dream company diagnostic" a testimony to celebrate and cherish diversity.