Category Archives: Creativity and Innovation

Will AI Take Our Jobs in the Emerging Economies of Africa?

“No one can expect to do the same thing for life.” Jing Bing Zhang

Daily, we are being reminded of how artificial intelligence (AI) would render many jobless in the nearest future. Simple reasons; cost is reduced, efficiency is better.

As much as 137 million people are about to lose their jobs in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia, as reported by a recent report of International Labour Organization. That is about 56% of their workforce.

A Swedish firm has invented a technology to milk cows. McDonalds is starting to use automated kiosks at their eateries to take orders via computers. Can you imagine how many jobs would be eliminated if that happens to all the McDonalds eateries?

Conversely, AI also creates jobs for humans, but maybe not exactly in equal number as they have removed. That’s why the disruption is real.

As I try to understand and answer the big question, would AI take our jobs in Africa? I reflect on the following scenario.

Automated Waiters in Tokyo

About 3 months ago, I facilitated a session generally aimed at honing the creative skills of the participants during an environmental festival. In my illustrations, I mentioned how a restaurant in Tokyo uses AI to eliminate the job of waiters. The only people working at the restaurant are the cooks and someone to facilitate your payment. Food orders and delivery are done via a tablet computer found at every table and delivered via conveyor belts respectively.

The creative lesson in that illustration is using an idea that has worked somewhere and applying it in your work. The idea of the restaurant is a borrowed one from the way Amazon works. When someone browses for a book on Amazon’s website, after a while, the website suggests items similar to what he/she has searched for earlier. For the restaurant, when you order a food with a particular taste, the tab suggests to you other meals that have similar tastes. That’s really innovative.

However, as our festival was promoting sustainability, environment wise, I was trying to promote use of innovative ideas for solving environmental challenges. The takeaway point is to borrow ideas that have worked elsewhere and apply it in solving an environmental challenge.

A participant was not comfortable with the use of AI though as she thought it defeats sustainability. It doesn’t promote a strong pillar of sustainability, people. That’s quite right.

Sustainability is relative. What is sustainable in Japan might not be a sustainable solution in Nigeria. The societal, social and economic conditions are hugely different. Very true.

Whatever be the case, AI means a lot of economic sense, and since entrepreneurs are expected to provide solutions that would create jobs, they would go for efficient services.

Phone Airtime Resellers in Nigeria

I cannot ignore but share this same message I regularly get on WhatsApp. To ignore buying airtime using hot naira codes from our banks and walk outside to resellers wherever they maybe to purchase one so they don’t go out of jobs. A clear case of passion over strategy.

This wouldn’t work. Its tedious, inefficient and costlier. Those resellers should become innovative and see AI as a tool they can use. They should manipulate how they can still resell airtime and make profit. How does this fit into this era which cashless transactions are continuously promoted?

Simply asking people to be passionate without putting a sound strategy of achieving a result would not yield good results.

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What Should We Do

Should we advocate for non-application of AIs in some places or promote people get the skills needed to survive the future of work?

It is time to start creating jobs that would not be overtaken by AI. “Automation and robotics will definitely impact lower-skilled people, which is unfortunate. I think the only way for them to move up or adapt to this change is not to hope that the government will protect their jobs from technology, but look for ways to retrain themselves. No one can expect to do the same thing for life. That’s just not the case anymore.” Mentioned Dr. Jing Bing Zhang, a renowned leader in the field of AI.

The necessary employable skills one needs to possess in the future does involve elements of AI, to have digital/IT skills. What one needs to is to carry out a SWOT analysis of oneself. In your threats section, does AI have the potential to overtake your job? If yes, I think it’s time to redefine your strategy and improve your strengths and most importantly, your weaknesses. Especially since your digital skills are weak.

And on a general note, Nigeria, as a federal government should promote digital literacy in secondary schools to make sure it is preparing its citizens for the future of work.

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Children are The Leaders of Tomorrow; Youths are The Leaders of Today

“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing toward being a champion.” 

-Billie Jean King

The weekend of August 12th was quite interesting as I listened to an amazing set of individuals invited as speakers at the TedxMaitama event that held in Abuja. It was the second Tedx event I attended. The first was the maiden edition of TedxStrathmore in Nairobi, back in 2014 I think. TedxMaitama wasn’t dull at all. It staged speakers from almost all sectors, entrepreneurs, public sector, creatives, international organizations and civil society, etc.

One of the most interesting things I learned was Nasir Yammama’s plan to send Jollof Rice to Space via a helium powered balloon (follow the hashtag #JollofRise next week to keep up with the success). For those of us who do not know Jollof Rice, it’s simply like cooking rice and stew together and it should come out as orangish redish or rather, tomato colour. It’s what Kenyans call Pilau. It’s all part of Nasir’s company plan of empowering smallholder farmers in rural communities.

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Another speaker Sadiq Abdulkadir, an architect presented something new in the architectural practice of Nigeria and quite interesting that amused the whole crowd. He was using virtual reality for demonstration of architectural designs. It was marvelous the first time I saw him and tried his solution 4 months ago at an exhibition of Nigerian Institute of Architects  in Abuja. With my interest in built environment, his solution would be something that I could use or see more of hopefully in the future.

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A TedxMaitama attendee trying out architect Sadiq’s new dimension in visualizing building architectural designs

Anyway, what compelled me to write this post is what the digital media entrepreneur, Japheth Omujuwa mentioned in his talk about children being the leaders of tomorrow. The speaker narrated how when he was in primary school, his teachers mentioned to him that they (children then) are going to be leaders of tomorrow. Moving to the next level, secondary school, he was told the same thing at Kings College. Another step forward at the university, a student union leader stood in front of a lecture hall which Japhet was present and addressed them as the leaders of tomorrow. Cut the story short, he rejected the leader’s notion that they (Japhet them, already grown as young adults) are the leaders of tomorrow.

Omjouwa didn’t believe that that‘tomorrow’ hasn’t arrived yet. Something must be wrong. Awareness and self-awareness are absent in us. That is what’s missing in the mind of many of us (youths) today. We are simply not aware that we are the leaders of today. Instead, we have narrowed our thinking to assuming that the leaders our teachers and elders always refer to is the political leadership; being president, governor, a senator or the likes.

Japhet asked a simple question to the crowd, referencing some of the young entrepreneurs/innovators invited as speakers who are already making giant strides in their endeavours, especially Nasir Yammama who was recently listed as one of the Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in Africa. “Can you say Nasir is not a leader today in agritech?” Omojuwa posited. You simply cannot. His social enterprise, Verdant Group, has impacted more than 25, 000 small holder farmers in Nigeria and the number will rise in the coming years.

Being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean being a political leader. In fact, the Merriam Webster’s dictionary defined a leader as someone who influences people. so how many of us, through different roles and avenues have influenced one or two other people. How many of us have made strides in sports, in civil society, in entrepreneurship, in research or whatever else you are doing. Being a leader shouldn’t be taught as when no one stands before you, in fact you are a leader when everybody is ahead of you and you guide them from the rear. It’s simply the awareness we should possess. A very interesting article from Harvard Business Review says that “you can’t be a good leader without self-awareness. It lies at the root of strong character, giving us the ability to lead with a sense of purpose, authenticity, openness, and trust it.”

I couldn’t agree more with what Billie Jean Kings says as well, “I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing toward being a champion.”  If we are a little more self-aware of what is going on, then we will take control of a lot of things going on. We will stop the wrong assumption that the tomorrow they told us while growing up hasn’t arrived. We will take more charge of what we do and feel confident and positive.

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Japheth Omojuwa making his point about awareness

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How Do We Become More Self-aware?

Don’t giggle at me when you read the next sentence. Start meditating. I know I know. Many people think of mediation as a foreign thing. I remember when I visited a resort owner and pitched him the idea that I would love to have people come to their cool green park and meditate. He concluded that it was an oyimbo (how white people are called in Nigeria) idea. It was my idea. I am not oyimbo.

Meditation simply allows you to be in the moment. To have yourself simply immersed in thinking of one thing. And thereafter, have reflections of what has transpired in your life. It’s what the Savages of Sirvana recommended to Julian, the successful Harvard Lawyer who sold his Ferrari, abandoned all what he had and travelled to India on a journey of self-discovery, as narrated in Robin Shirma’s book, “the monk who sold his Ferrari”.

Anyway, you and I do not own a Ferrari, but what am simply saying is you should endeavour to have more self-awareness in whatever you do and meditation yoga, is one heck of a great idea to. Writing down your plans and priorities, asking trust friends, taking psychometric tests and getting regular feedback at work are among the 5 things this article from Harvard Business Review recommends.

The tomorrow our teachers informed us while growing up has arrived. It is today. If you cannot agree that you are a leader in what you do, it is simply because you have refused to take action.  So actually, children are the leaders of tomorrow, and youths taking action are the leaders of today.

“The only difference between the people off stage and the people on stage was that the people on stage had taken action and moved forward despite their fears.”

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5 TED Talks That Will Teach You How to Innovate

 

I have always been interested with building new things, especially from scratch. It was among the chief reasons why I majored in civil engineering. Because civil engineers build from scratch. But my interest in creating new things was not just in buildings, I have come to understand. It is joining a large group of people in building something new, something never done before and something to challenge us.

We each have our creative potentials, but not many of discover them. I try to find those people who have discovered theirs. In doing that, I found TED, a global community of people mostly celebrated for their creativity and innovation. Watching TED Talks boosts my creative potential I will say. It motivates me in keeping my dream alive of creating something never done before. I have watched more than a 100 TED Talks (I think). Out of those 100, I have replayed about 10 of them over and over again because of the relevance and inspiration I get from them.

I have shortlisted a few of them here. The speakers have been courageous in understanding how people innovate and offer their suggestions for those who want to travel the same way. Whatever business you are in to, I think understanding how to be creative is imperative. Creative skill is one of the most sought after skill in the 21st century among people. So if you are looking for how to boost yours, please take your time to watch any or all of these.

  1. Steven Johnson: Where Good Ideas Come From

This brilliant talk explored the spaces where good ideas come from. Often, in Nigeria, I get asked to bring new ideas to the table because I have traveled to a number of different places. Well I think they can be right that people who have traveled to a completely new different place and come back to where they live will begin to see things with a fresh of new eyes. And that might be the birth of something new. Or simply, exporting what has worked over there to your hometown. Steven here, though, went back to as far as 17th century to show that ideas in the UK, come from coffee shops back then. The inspiration though is not in the coffee, it is in the coming together of different people from different backgrounds talking about different things. It is the diversity of the coffee shops that makes what two people are thinking in the coffee shop to connect. If anytime you are looking for new ideas of doing something, get into discussion with different sets of people, perhaps at a coffee shop. Chance favours the connected.

  1. Joi Ito: Want to Innovate? Become a “now-ist”

Head of MIT Media Lab Joi Ito does not like the word Futurist. In Japan, I was thought one of the mechanisms of novelty is designing for the future, which is true. However, Joi believes if you want to innovate, you have to become a now-ist. Do it right there and then. Pull the resources to yourself. Deploy your idea or die. And most importantly, learn over educating. Doing makes you learn. Do not wait in school to be educated on everything before you start doing. Start doing and you will learn what needs to be done. Do not delay.

  1. David Kelley: How to Build Your Creative Confidence

David Kelley is someone I want to be like. His mission is to help people gain creative confidence. That is my mission with Innovation Lounge. To foster a culture of creativity and innovation in schools and organizations. David talks of a story of one John, who created a horse out of a clay. One of his classmates told him it was terrible, and he never tried anything like that again. David preaches people shouldn’t be divided into creatives and non-creatives. Everyone has a potential to do something. When you build yourself, with baby steps, in being creative, you get excited and build emotional confidence. Your mental strength builds up as you continue to brainstorm and share new ideas. Do not be defeated when people say your idea is horrible. The secret it to keep trying.

  1. Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?

While not being lost in the title of this TED Talk, I find this talk by the foremost English Educationist to be thought provoking in how we can remain creative. Attending schools make us start thinking that all in life is Math, English, Science and the rest of we are taught. We are taught different things according to the disciplines. This may not necessarily be a bad thing if you grow older to pick an interest in a particular field and innovate. But happens is that as a child, you often ask so many questions and do so many things without recourse to anybody’s translation. And that is your creative self. To go after your curiosity. Attending schools will educate us out of that curiosity. It will kill your creative child and transform you into something else. Somewhat. Even for humour, you do not want to miss watching this talk.

There are other TED Talks I want to write about but will do so subsequently. Tony Fadel’s first secret of design is noticing. It is observation. If you want to change something, you have to notice and understand how it is done now before you can change it. The other talk is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Your Elusive Creative Genuis. Julie Burstin 4 Lessons in creativity. I will be writing more on creativity and innovation and reviewing how great innovators come up with quality ideas. Another aspect of innovation I want to write about is social innovation, what Prof. Hideyuki Horii called the necessary condition for the 3rd Miracle to happen. If you do not want to miss such posts, I recommend subscribing to my blog.

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If you think you lack creative confidence and you have not yet unlocked a hidden potential in you, I recommend attending one of our innovation workshops with Innovation Lounge. More than a 100 people have passed through it and a cumulative 600 hours have accrued in trying to come with new quality ideas. If you are interested, please drop me a message.

And if you have found your strides, I urge you to continue. The world needs more ideas like never before. To creativity and innovation.

 

 

How to Start a Startup: 3 Things I learned While Attending the Founder’s Conference

For some years passed, I have been seriously thinking of starting a startup. A small company that will solve a problem in an innovative way and that will grow rapidly. One that will help and bring ease to its customers or clients. I began ideating how to go about developing my objective, which has not concreted into a formidable solution yet. I started attending conferences where ideas and innovative solutions were being discussed. The only thing missing was how to go about turning them into real viable businesses. And so this year June, I got to attend a startup conference called Heureka, The Founder’s Conference, in Berlin. It gathered more than a 100 startup founders and successful startup owners and directors of companies like Airbnb, Uber, Zalando etc.

How to start a startup

To say the least, I was inspired but  demotivated of starting a startup, after conversing and hearing a lot of people tell their stories. I was inspired because of the success they achieved but daunted by learning the fact that it takes a huge effort in making your startups into reality.

While I still wondered about my next move, during the break session, I approached Microsoft Accelerator Programme in Berlin occupying one of the exhibition booths. I wanted to know how I can get into their 12 week accelerator programme.

The following conversation ensued between me and the Gonen, the person I met.

“Do you have a prototype or a startup.”Me: “No! only an idea.” “Everybody has ideas. Everyone on the street has ideas, but not all are good ideas. To get in (Microsoft Accelerator Programme), you need to know that people want your idea, people are interested in the solution you will bring. Cut the story short, do these 3 things, I guarantee you, it will make a beeline in becoming successful:

  1. Test your idea
  2. Assemble the right team
  3. Read this book”

Let’s get into the details of what these steps mean

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Testing Your Idea

So you have an idea you are thinking will become a huge success, right? How do you know people will be interested in your solutions? In a poll made for why most startups fail, the number reason (totalling 30% of the votes) is because they build something nobody wants. Build a prototype using the lean startup method (using the least resources to build a basic version), test it and get instant feedback. If your solution is a digital one, one that people can easily access, quickly develop it and launch it online. The number of people who sign up will tell you how many people are interested. If you cannot build any prototype, make a story about your solution and share it online. Ask people who are interested in the solution to drop their emails and they will be the first to know when the product is finally ready. If you do this, you will no doubt know whether you need to invest more time or not in developing your product. Even if you cannot build a prototype, run a Facebook ad or wherever you can tell people about the solution you have in mind. Have them sign up if they are interested in the soultion when the product or service gets ready.

Read Traction

Traction is a wonderful book put together by two startup founders. It is the result of interviews with 40 company owners and deep research and understanding of countless successful companies, about how they gained traction. In other words, how they increased their customer base. Because that is all you need, number of customers or clients. This book detailed exactly how you can use 19 different ways of doing it. I am sure you will find one or two ways you can easily start using without spending a dime. The book is available for free download here.

Assemble the Right Team

To build a dream company, you need a dream team. Why? Because everyone will have a role to play and you can easily have more time to focus and do much in your role. You need at least 3 people for you team. It is not a most, but it will be easier. Also when investors are looking at your team, they will easily see how competent you are. Remember, people do not invest in ideas, they invest in people. So hire wisely. The number 2 reason (18% of the votes) why most startups fail is because of hiring the wrong people. Hire people to complement your skills. An associated failure rate is also not finding the right co-founders.  At least have an engineer, a graphic designer and a marketing/sales personnel. You need someone to make the beautiful designs that will appeal to the potential customers, the images, the posters, the videos etc. The engineer does the programming of the site, the solution or takes care of the technical side of the company. Then you need the sales/marketing guy to do the marketing. I believe you all know how difficult it is to market a new product.

“With this, you will definitely see tangible results.” These is the best advice I received from Gonen, a current intern at Microsoft Accelerator in Berlin. With his team, they are working on Raklet, an online platform to help associations with membership subscriptions manage their association through sending messages to their members, updating their payment profile and the likes, all through one platform. I totally recommend it for the association you belong to.

I got more motivated as the steps were made clearer to me. But one thing must be be stressed; it requires hardwork.

If you enjoy reading this post, please share it with an ambitious entrepreneur out there. Like me, some things may become clearer to her or him. Are you about starting your startup too? Do you find these suggestions I received relevant or how do you like to begin? Please share your thoughts or formula.

 

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A single first step in getting (more) creative in your life.

“If you accustom yourself to creativity in small things, creativity on a large scale will follow.” Sheikh Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai

How do you become creative? Can we learn to be innovative? Is it only geniuses like Einstein who are creative? These are the questions asked by Professor Hideyuki Horii during a session of the University of Tokyo Innovation Summer Programme I attended in 2014. These are the same questions I ask participants of the innovation education workshops I facilitate. Can we? Can you? Being creative basically means ability to do things in a different way.

My accountability bud last week started one of her bi-weekly blog posts narrating how she asked a friend on what topic should she write for that week. The person replied “chicken”. Hilarious indeed. She didn’t write 1000 words about chickens though. She was creative about it. She took the inspiration from it and wrote on a general topic around it. If you want to read it, please follow this link here. Why the story? If you realize, for those moments, she was looking for new ideas. She used “ask a friend” as a way to come up new blogging ideas and it totally worked for her.

Aside that, there are a lot other ways of how to come up with new ideas. But that is not what I want to share, how to come up with new ideas, not today. This post is aimed at suggesting a strategy of how to become generally (more) creative in doing your every day things.

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My first suggestion is what the ruler of Dubai HRH Sheikh Maktoum suggested in his book Flashes of Thought, “I was asked how to become creative. I replied that we should get accustomed to not getting accustomed.”

Yes. Absolutely right. What does he mean by that? Many at times, we approach life with the same principle every now and then. A good way of beginning to be creative is to ask yourself, how can I accomplish this task differently? What other way can this task be done? This one single question will challenge you to start thinking (creatively, yes.). If you make friends by extending a handshake, try offering a cupcake next time. If you start solving problems by asking what went wrong, try asking how to totally avoid the problem from happening again. If you dress corporately to work, try dressing casually (try dishing the idea to your boss to allow employees dress casually for a single day and you will realize they will say they feel a lot freer in their head). Why?

The idea is that when you accustom yourself to constantly changing how you do stuff, it will build your mind to be more flexible and open. Flexibility conjures creativity. Being creative means accepting to do things a new different way. And that is exactly what people who are not open to change resist. They are rigid in all approaches and do not accept new ideas.

The more you try making creativity an everyday part of your life, the more excellence we will achieve in our lives said the Ruler of Dubai.

If you find this single tip useful, please do share it with your firends. If you need more ways of becoming creative, then subscribe to my blog to receive more posts on how to get creative in the future.

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Sadiq is the Lead Facilitator at Innovation Lounge, an organization fostering creativity and innovation culture in schools and universities.

Nurturing Talents

I read and noticed with great admiration how the story of that young automotive ‘engineer’ Muzammil Umar from Kebbi trended on social media. To remind us, he built a car which he drove to school. How cool and honourable can driving a car you built be? I couldn’t see the automobile in person but from pictorial observation, I saw a generator in the car bonnet, probably used to provide power to the car. Well he got so many Facebook likes and comments. The ingenious car was also always the first in the convoy of the incumbent governor of the state during his campaign last year.

Nigerian SS3 student builds car, drives it to school in Kebbi
Muzammil with one of his rides

To another talented automotive designer, Bashir Aliyu, living about 150 km from the engineer, in Sokoto. The beautiful small prototypes he made were again trending on social media. Lots of people fell in love with him. To cap his admiration, the Governor of Sokoto State invited him and offered him a full scholarship to study automotive design in the US. That’s great for him and for Nigerians.

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Bashir with one of his beautifully designed cars

In another northern state of Nigeria, in Kano, an unaccredited engineer built a helicopter in 2007 that could fly at 7 feet (roughly the distance between your floor and the top of your door) off the ground. It was built from an old Honda engine, Toyota parts and parts of a wrecked plane. He was presented to the National Assembly some years back, I didn’t know what he got from it though.

In Anambra, I read how some teenage boys designed prototypes of helicopters too. Another man in Benue also built a small chopper too. All are yet to fly though.

If you follow carefully, this is a story of young talented individuals following their passion. This is a short story of how young men spend ample amount of time working on what truly motivates them. And it reminds me of what Albert Einstein said about his intelligence, “it’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer”.

I was in Stuttgart (Germany) last year, and my friends took me to tour the museum of Mercedes Benz at their headquarters. I toured the museum for about 4 hours and still couldn’t finish it as it should be. I saw right from the 8th floor (top most floor), the first automobile made by Karl Benz, and the 4 carriage wheel by Maybach. As you go down the floors, you will experience how they made advances in the engineering of cars, and even how the name Mercedez Benz came to be. Today, many of the most beautifully engineered cars are from Mercedes Benz. The president of Nigeria is driven in one.

Perhaps the world already knows how to make cars and airplanes compared to the times of Karl and Maybach when automobiles where not known. But the trend in young Nigerian adults translating their passions into tangible creations can be improved. Perhaps the education system in place should not only seek to educate people into knowing math, English or even French as recently obligated, or civic studies, or worse educate them out of their creativity (as Sir Ken Robinson popularly says and I agree 100%), but there should be spaces provided to nurture such individuals with rare and exceptional skills and talents in turning abstract ideas into reality.

Innovation spaces to empower and hone the creative skills of individuals that will make them come up with new quality ideas should be provided. The educational curricula should should also foster creativity and innovation. It should make regional innovation one of their main goals.

Bashir and Muzammil will not be the Karl Benz and Maybach (even though I wish they can. Karl and Maybach lived a few kilometres from each other in different cities like Bashir and Muzammil, although Karl and Maybach never met in their lives) of our generation, but they might turn out to be something remarkable if nurtured. There is a trend we need to understand here. These talents are not just popping up out of the blue. Many of them exist and some sadly do not open their package (talent) because the system does not have a mechanism in place to discover talent.

It is my wish that the culture of creativity and innovation will be fostered in our schools and universities. What do you think about a curriculum that fosters innovation? Have you come across individuals who kept at their passion in trying to succeed? We will want to read about their struggle if you don’t mind sharing.

 

 

I founded Innovation Lounge, a nonprofit that aims to foster the culture of creativity and innovation in schools and universities in Nigeria. If you want to support our efforts, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Creating Regional Innovation in Japan: Part 2

“We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.” Galilei Galileo

When the workshops and assimilation of how to create regional innovation was completed in Tokyo, it was time to go and put what we learnt into action. We will travel to Tohoku region, an area hit by the tsunami (3.11) caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March, 2011. There, a group of 24 brilliant High School students will await us to learn how to use the regional resources in their city to create innovation. In anticipation, I wondered how I could relate and teach High School students how to create regional innovation considering I learnt it a few days ago. Saturday morning, and everyone treaded down to the local train stations that conveyed us to the bullet train station. The bullet train, Shinkansen (in Japanese) travels at a ground speed of about 325 km/h. After about 3 hours of travel time, we dragged our feet out of the train station and headed for the buses waiting to convey us to Otsuchi town.

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Otsuchi town was almost decimated by the 3.11 tsunami. We stood with our faces painted with compassion as a tour guide narrated to us how it all happened. On the unfaithful day, some of the residents have wrongly gathered at the Mayor’s office when they felt the ground shook. A good disaster evacuation procedure preaches that you run to a higher ground when the tsunami is expected. Unfortunately, the tsunami walloped the entire people together with the mayor. The aftermath of the disaster left huge cracks about 20 mm wide on the wall. Much more than an anticipated tensional cracks structural engineers normally design against. Japan has been championing the design of earthquake resistant structures for long. However, no one saw that coming. There is an interesting story about how 99.8% of some Elementary and Junior High School students in Kamaishi City evaded the danger and helped other villagers along. This story is now known as the Miracle of Kamaishi. We left Otsuchi town for Tono City.

After 2 days in Tono City, our sole aim of being there was about to start. We were assigned 5 students to teach how to create regional innovation. We sat round a small table with Mai (Japanese), Neysa (Indonesian), Naka Chan (Japanese) and Professor Alex (British) discussing how to accomplish our goal. We were stuck on what best innovation teaching method we should employ to teach the students. It became more difficult as we envisioned that the High School students might not comprehend all what we will teach them. As we thought. We need to take it slowly with them. And the phrase “do not underestimate High School students” was born within us. We joked with the phrase constantly in order to reinforce our belief in the students. Thereafter, we simply concluded they are smart and will perform duly. And we were right. All the 24 students wowed all the university participants with their creativity. They came up with many different innovative ideas that harnesses the resources of Tono City. I was more than impressed and captivated by their creativity, elocutionary skills (they spoke in Japanese though) and their emotional individual reflection and farewell speech to us.

Group photo with the High School students Behind, L-R: Professor Alex, Naka Chan, Akihiro, myself, Gonzalo.

Front, L-R:: Neysa, Ryo, Rey, Mayu, Kanami, Kana, Mai.

The quote by the famous Italian Philosopher, Engineer, Physicist etc. mentioned at the beginning of this piece signifies what I took out most from my Innovation Camp in Japan. In my own words, it helped me realize the great potential for innovation lying both in my hands and existing in my environment. It is truly unlocking hidden potentials.

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Sadiq Gulma.