The Power of the Unconversation

On the 9th of March 2017 twelve enthusiastic Foundery members attended DevConf 2017, South Africa’s biggest community driven software development conference: an event that promised learning, inspiration and networking.

Courtesy of DevConf 2017 (devconf.co.za)

On the 9th of March 2017 twelve enthusiastic Foundery members attended DevConf 2017, South Africa’s biggest community driven software development conference: an event that promised learning, inspiration and networking.

With a multi-tracked event such as this one there is usually something for everyone, and yet if you speak to serial conference attendees (guilty as charged), the talks aren’t the greatest reason to attend.

People like me go to conferences in part for the scheduled content, but mostly for the unscheduled conversations in the passage en route to a talk or around a cocktail table during a break. The “unconversations”, I’m calling them. It’s the conference equivalent of another well-known creative outlet: “water cooler conversations”.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a conference butterfly – actively seeking out these “unconversations” so that I can join them. I especially take note as crowds disappear into conference rooms. I’m drawn to the groups of people who stay behind wherever they might have gathered. That’s where I’m almost guaranteed to participate in really interesting discussions and learn something new. When I attend conferences, it’s this organic and informal style of collaborative enquiry I look forward to the most.

Courtesy of DevConf 2017 (devconf.co.za)

Ironically it was one of the DevConf talks that helped me understand why these “unconversations” tend to work so well as creative spaces. In his talk on Mob Programming, Mark Pearl mentioned a study conducted by the American Psychological Association which established that groups of 3-5 people perform better on complex problem solving than the smartest person in the group could perform on their own. See “references” for more information.

Loosely translated, a group of people has a better shot of solving a complex problem together than if they tried to solve it independently.

As a Mob Programming enthusiast myself, this makes complete sense to me. What’s interesting is that this research is not new, yet many organisations still discourage “expensive” group-work and continue to reward individual performance, and I can see why. For people with similar upbringings and educational backgrounds to mine, this is the comfort zone. We default to working alone and feel a sense of accomplishment when we achieve success individually. As children we were told to solve problems and find answers on our own. Receiving help was a sign of weakness, and copying was forbidden.

In contrast, the disruptive organisations of the last few decades encourage the complete opposite. These organisations recognise the value of problem-solving with groups of people who have varying, and even conflicting, perspectives. There’s no time for old-school mindsets that favour individual efforts over collaboration. We need to cheat where it’s appropriate by knowing who can help us and what existing ideas we can leverage.

I don’t mean to trivialise it. There’s a bit more involved than just creating opportunities for people to solve problems in groups. According to the book “Collective Genius”, innovative companies such as Google have developed three important organisational capabilities: creative abrasion (idea generation by encouraging conflict and high quality feedback), creative agility (hypothesizing, experimenting, learning and adapting) and creative resolution (deciding on a solution after taking new knowledge into account) all supported by a unique style of leadership. The case studies are incredibly motivating.

Since joining the Foundery I’m discovering that we are practicing these things every day, and the amazing ideas and products born from our “collective genius” serve as confirmation that we’re on the right track. Is it always easy? No, absolutely not. It’s requires a great deal of mindfulness.

When I’m reflective I notice that the greatest ideas and most creative solutions I’ve brought to life were conceived with input from others. Many of the dots I connected for the first time happened during completely unlikely meetings of minds, and some through passionate differences of opinion. In an environment that calls for constant collaboration, it’s wonderfully refreshing to find that the “unconversations” I enjoy so much are happening all around me, every day.

And so long as I’m participating, I am always reminded that together we are more capable of solving really complex problems than the smartest one among us, and I’m becoming more and more OK with that.

References:

By Candice Mesk

 

Design Indaba made me do it –

This was the mantra for the 22nd annual Design Indaba conference, hosted by the beautiful city of Cape Town at the Artscape theater.

This was the mantra for the 22nd annual Design Indaba conference, hosted by the beautiful city of Cape Town at the Artscape theater.

The Design Indaba Conference has grown to become one of the world’s leading design events and hosts more than 40 speakers and 2 500 delegates. It draws creatives from all spheres and industries to come together under one roof to share knowledge, inspire and to collaborate with one another.

We talked, mingled and networked; filing our inspiration tanks. There were graffiti artists, dj’s, musicians, sculptors and various sponsor pop-ups and activation units, inviting us into this world of endless possibility and creativity.

Contrary to current perception, Design Indaba is not a conference ONLY for creatives – it is for everyone, from any field of expertise that would like to ignite their senses and intrigue their minds. It’s a jam packed 3 days and I believe that there is something that will speak to anyone’s core. This year was my first Design Indaba and it was a truly immersive experience, exceeding all my expectations.

The main highlight for me, wasn’t the skill or talent of all these amazing people (even though that was incredible) – but rather their thinking, this really stood out to me; they took us on a journey through the lens and into their magical minds!

Ultimately, Design Indaba wants to change the thinking of the world, one conference at a time, one creative at a time, and one business at a time.

It will take a generation of creative thinkers and implementers to see a turnaround. Design Indaba’s primary aim therefore is “to advance the cause of design as a communication fundamental, a business imperative and a powerful tool in industry and commerce, awakening and driving a demand for investment in intellectual capital”.

Investing nearly two decades in this vision, Design Indaba has championed the creative revolution. Here are some of my highlights from the 3-day event (content supplied from the Design Indaba weekly mailer):

The enchanted forest – Can beauty redeem us?

We were welcomed into the Design Indaba Festival 2017 through an enchanted forest of massive tree sculptors that were beautiful and surreal.

These tree sculptures were on exhibition the entire conference and created a magical ambience to the atmosphere in the festival court yard. I felt like I was walking around in a world that was a mash-up of the movies, Labyrinth and Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton version).

Read more >

Capturing Cape Town’s scent with Kaja Solgaard Dahl

The thank-you gift for the festival this year was created by this designer, Kaja Dahl, she is fascinated with creativity that uplifts our experience and affect the senses directly.

Her process and the end-product is captivating and just incredible. She truly did capture the scent of Cape Town –whimsical, fresh, enlighten, yet eccentric.

Read more >

Masters in the art of freestyling it

One of my main highlights of the festival was the amazing group called Freestyle Love Supreme. They would wrap up each day with freestyle rap and beat boxing. They were so entertaining and funny, I laughed so hard that may face hurt.

The Design Indaba team chatted to Freestyle Love Supreme ahead of their Design Indaba daily wrap ups and once-off performance on the Thursday at Nightscape.

Read more >

 

 

Swahili launches on Duolingo

At Design Indaba 2017, Luis Von Ahn launches the first African language course on Duolingo. The audience went wild when he told us, he then went on to say that the second African language they will be launching will be Zulu. We can’t wait to see more African languages on this amazing app.

Read more >

Arch For Arch: A coda for Design Indaba Festival Day 3

The spectacular finale of the 2017 Conference and a tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was a great honor and privilege for me to be a part of this amazing ceremony and to hear the incredible and humble, Archbishop Desmond Tutu talk. It was a great way to end the amazing festival, I left feeling inspired

Read more >

Thank you for the wonderful experience and we are looking forward to where they go from here.

So, if you think that design indaba isn’t for you – think again. Book your ticket for next year and immerse yourself.

by Mari-Liza Monteiro

 

 

 

 

Why it took 400 years to invent the wing

You would be forgiven for thinking the three photographs below were various “Wright Flyers” piloted by renowned flight pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright. They’re not – They are photographs of different flights that took place at roughly the same time…

THE MYSTERY OF SIMULTANEOUS INVENTION

You would be forgiven for thinking the three photographs below were various “Wright Flyers” piloted by renowned flight pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright.

NPS.gov
NPS.gov
Wright-brothers.org
Wright-brothers.org

 

Wright-brothers.org
Wright-brothers.org

They’re not – They are photographs of different flights that took place at roughly the same time as the famous Wright brothers’ flight. Not all of these inventors knew of each other’s existence prior to their inventions. This bizarre case of “simultaneous invention” has occurred many times before, and since, the Wright brothers’ flight. The polio vaccine was developed by three separate scientists almost at once. The patent for the telephone was filed by two separate individuals on the same day.

Why does innovation occur simultaneously? We tend to have an idealised view of how scientists work. We have a picture of an individual in a workshop making a few sketches and shouting out in joy at having thought of the wing. If this was indeed the case, then the occurrence of simultaneous inventions would almost defy logic.

The reality is that the inventors and innovators captivate the views, thoughts and ideas of their day as well as existing technology, and it is this trait, that explains the phenomenon of simultaneous discovery.

The story of fixed-wing self-powered flight

The first recorded study of flight was Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Codex on the Flight of Birds” in 1505. John Smeaton was the first to attempt to quantify the phenomenon of lift prior to 1800. Using the concept of lift, George Cayley just after 1800 conceived the concept of cambered airfoil and made the world’s first glider. The glider could barely move any practical distance. Otto Lilienthal, in 1889, took experimentation to a new level. By absorbing the thoughts of his day, he made an astonishing 2500 glides and documented his findings in the famous “Lilienthal tables”. The Wright brothers could not emulate the data in the Lilienthal tables because of an error in the concept developed by Smeaton over 100 years earlier. Out of frustration, they went over and above Lilienthal’s experiments by creating the world’s first rudimentary wind tunnel. They realised that “camber”, “aspect ratios” and “angle of attack” all contributed to various lifts. And so, 398 years after its first study, Wright Wing Number 31 was selected for the historic flight. The wing, by itself, was insufficient for the flight – they had to procure the latest internal combustion engine to power the plane. Luckily for them, this had been developed in parallel, and with its own intricate history. The Wright brothers, by profession, were bicycle manufacturers, not backyard inventors or carpenters – the perfect candidates for flight pioneers. Think light weight rivets, spokes, wheel rims and tubes.

The Adjacent Possible explains simultaneous discovery

The same fascinating story can be found in numerous other inventions such as the Gutenburg press. The movable type, the press, paper and ink all have stories of the their own. And few of them were traced back to “Eureka” moments. Steven Johnson first proposed the concept of an adjacent possible which originally has its roots in microbiology. As Steven Johnson writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“the [adjacent possible] boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.”

We can therefore argue that no matter how much of a genius Da Vinci was, he could not have possibly made a flying machine back in 1505. He was not at the boundary of the adjacent possible. He most certainly contributed to it as he was part of the enlightenment and laid the early foundations of putting innovative thoughts on paper. John Smeaton’s lift equation was wrong but it was a critical contribution in that it attempted to quantify the mysterious phenomena of lift into an equation and enabled Otto Lilienthal to record his famous tables.

What can Fintech Learn about the Adjacent Possible?

The story of the wing is an extreme case study of iterative innovations towards a single invention.

Players in the Fintech space could learn from this theme. Innovation happens on the boundaries of the adjacent possible. For example, crypto currencies could not be implemented prior to the ability to hold distributed ledgers on multiple databases connected in a common consortiumEureka moments are indeed rare. Innovation initiatives should reach out to the world to absorb the thoughts and ideas of the day. Businesses should look within their own boundaries to find their own “Lilienthal tables” – to see what worked and what didn’t, in order to innovate effectively.

The Palau island tribes did, in theory, implement a blockchain in 500AD but the “ledger” was effectively narratives held by the tribes elders

by Dejan Popovic

Which race are you in?

As we hurtle head on in 2017 its becoming increasingly clear that no matter what generation you find yourself in – Xers embracing tech, Y’s passionately living the dream or Z pushing us all faster than we ever believed we could go – if you are not concentrating…this digital world will run right past before you blink.

http://europe2017.finovate.com/
http://europe2017.finovate.com/

At Finovate 2017 in London last week, I was struck firstly by the intensity of this pace – the leaps that tech has taken over the past year, but also, and more importantly, by the spirit of partnership.

No longer are we in a world where competition is about being the fastest or the smartest, we are living in a world where winning is about bundling those that are faster and smarter than you into meaningful solutions for the business you are in, and the clients that you serve.

In banking it’s too late for us to say “let’s build our own” or “let’s throw money at disruption”; we need to get our heads around connecting fintech dots to build the best solutions for our clients. In biometrics and authentication, the solutions are overwhelming, similarly in app design and integration.  Banking is less and less about paper trails and complicated products and more about integrating whole life solutions with ease of use and integrated platforms. It’s not at all about selling products and more about connecting the right client to the appropriate product they need for the time of their life that they are in – most often aided by a funkily named chatbot.  The world of social media and banking have converged already (yup ship sailed), payments is fast becoming something everyone does …everyone! We can already buy packaged analytics and information about pretty much anything we need.

Banking has morphed from functional practicality to gorgeous design, insightful user experience and lifestyle products that adjust to the needs of its customers. Tricky thing is that much of that “banking” isn’t coming from banks! So what on earth should banks be doing?

Concentrating? Yes. Trying to keep up? No. Collaborating? Absolutely!

Finovate entrepreneurs brought solutions to banking problems we never even knew existed. They challenged views of what banks do and encouraged us all to ask “how can we help you help us help our clients?”  More importantly though, they showed what collaboration brings.  Over and over as the 7 minute spots passed by, it was clear that these entrepeneurs are building on what each other are building.  Each using bits of what others had built, to supersize the solutions they were prototyping.

And that is the way to stay in the race! So as we train for the year ahead, we need to make sure we have the insight to navigate the way forward, the partnerships with fintechs to supersize our banking offerings and the deep relationships with clients to package this stream of incredible ideas in ways that makes them not only satisfied but thrilled with the way they interact with our ecosystem.

by Liesl Bebb Mckay

Looking through the exponential looking glass

We are now in what some are calling the next industrial revolution. In this time, we are experiencing exponentials more than at any other time in history. An example of this is the exponential decrease in the cost of solar electricity generating technology: the cost of electricity will, in our lifetime, tend to zero.

We are now in what some are calling the next industrial revolution. In this time, we are experiencing exponentials more than at any other time in history. An example of this is the exponential decrease in the cost of solar electricity generating technology: the cost of electricity will, in our lifetime, tend to zero. This not only allows us to solve our own electricity challenges here in South Africa but opens many possibilities on how we solve other challenges such as water security. With the cost of electricity tending to zero the business case for large scale desalination plants more realistic. Given that South Africa has just survived the worst drought in living memory many people are now conscious of water security and are looking for their own solutions.

 

I’ve just described some of the positive effects of exponentials. There are going to be some effects that will be harder humanity to deal with. Let’s consider another exponential that encapsulates artificial intelligence, deep learning and robotics. We already have driverless cars, experiments on primitive driverless cars began in the 1920’s – the technology is now mainstream. Whether human beings are ready for them is another question. The impact driverless cars have is profound, firstly we no longer need human drivers, secondly, we have fewer accidents as computers driver better than humans and thirdly all our current motor vehicles become obsolete and have little value other than in remote areas of the world.

 

Let’s extend a bit further into robotics and genetics. Robots will replace human farmers as they will be able to manage the entire farm. Crops will be farmed as raw materials for the advanced food printing technology. Animals will no longer be farmed as any protein can now be printed more cost effectively. Maintenance robots will maintain other robots as well as themselves. Food will be almost free as costs for electricity, water and robots are negligible. In this time of abundance human beings will live in homes built by machines, food, water, healthcare and education will all be free. Disease will be eradicated by genetic medicine that is printed at home after diagnosis by doctor robots. Our children will all have online tutors who are dedicated and configured to optimally educate each child. Humans may take real holidays from time to time but mostly they will prefer alternative reality holidays that they can take from the comfort of their homes.

 

In this time of great abundance, human beings have lots of time on their hands. With many needs met, people are looking to find purpose in their lives. There are many schools of thought around what we as humans will be focusing on. I believe that the simple answer is that humans will be looking forward at bigger challenges. Humanity has the gift of being able to manifest to the extent of imagination and now there will be focus on terraforming deserts on Earth into arable land, colonization of the Moon and Mars. Since very few people have volunteered for Moon and Mars missions the robots are sent to establish good living conditions before humans move in earnest. Humanity has finally closed the ecological divide – that is the divide in the mind of humans between their actions the impact on the planet. Technology has been very useful in helping to undo the sins of the past, vast ships extract plastics from the ocean. Localized plants remove toxins from the air. Genetically modified plants and animals extract poisons from our waterways. Ecosystems begin to re-establish after animal farming stops. Nature reserves still exist to contain the more dangerous animals.

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Exponentials are the key to these dramatic shifts in the world and these changes may happen faster than we think. We are experiencing exponentials in almost every aspect of our lives, look forward to profound positive changes for both humanity and the Earth soon.

by Jason Suttie

 

A case of keeping up with the Joneses?

The world is changing. Drones are fighting in armies, driverless cars are no longer a fiction of someone’s imagination, robots have the ability to outsmart humans in offering legal and financial advice. Exciting? Most definitely. But for a developing country such as South Africa there is also a sense of uneasiness.

South Africa and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Source: genesisnanotech.com
Source: genesisnanotech.com

The world is changing. Drones are fighting in armies, driverless cars are no longer a fiction of someone’s imagination, robots have the ability to outsmart humans in offering legal and financial advice. Exciting? Most definitely. But for a developing country such as South Africa there is also a sense of uneasiness. How will our economy keep up with a changing world while having to fight poverty, inequality, corruption? As one of the most unequal societies of the current age one has to wonder what technological advances will do to the already high Gini coefficient? Are we entering a dystopian world order where some countries will ride the wave of a revolution and others will be left behind, feeding on the scraps?

Prof. Klaus Schwab from the World Economic Forum has proposed that a fourth industrial revolution is imminent. An industrial revolution is seen as a change in the basic economic structure, driven by innovation and invention. In the late 18th century coal and locomotives introduced the first industrial revolution with mechanization being the key driver.  The fourth industrial revolution will fundamentally change the world that we live in through so-called cyber physical systems where the natural, human and digital world meet. In short, extreme automation and connectivity might mean that boundary lines between humans and technology are blurred with concepts such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the internet of things taking civilization where it has not gone before.

While South Africa’s economy relies heavily on its natural resources the question is whether the country has progressed sufficiently on the ladder of previous industrial revolutions, or rather whether a platform has been created from which to launch into the rising age. One simply has to look at the state of railways and even the huge amount of manufacturing that happens off-shore to wonder whether South Africa has been able to progress industrially with the rest of the world. UBS highlights in a white paper (Davos 2016 White Paper) that South Africa is behind the curve with regard to the evolving of manufacturing along with demographics. In effect, the failure to move to high level of manufacturing with the demographic prime could indicate that SA has not adequately adapted to the second and third industrial revolutions.

The question remains whether the fourth industrial revolution would be a case of keeping up with the Joneses or whether it would be possible to fast track development in order to launch South Africa into the new era.

Africa is a continent that upholds a certain reputation for innovation particularly to overcome obstacles often created by the lack of development in a certain area. The continent is also seen as an early adopter of technology, with success stories of financial applications such as M-Pesa flying the flag for an innovative continent. Pockets of excellence mean that it is not all doom and gloom for South Africa. The financial sector is one of the best in the world and may well be a field in which new technologies will get traction.

The WEF looks favourably towards South Africa in terms of innovation and new fourth industrial revolution indexes in their Global Competitiveness Report (2016-2017) (WEF – Global Competitiveness Report ) with the following global ranks: innovation and sophistication (31st), business dynamism (50th) and innovation capacity (38th ) perhaps indicative of the silver lining of promise that the country will punch above its weight in the revolution.

Although ranked low in basic requirements and some efficiency parameters indicating a lag in fully adapting to previous industrial revolutions, positive innovation rankings paired with the right industry, such as financial markets, could position South Africa favourably in terms of moving towards the fourth industrial revolution.

It would be easy for South Africa to adopt a fearful approach towards the new era of automation and robotics. In a country with high unemployment low-skilled workers are likely to face a world where the job-market has no space for them. Some pessimists are predicting a world where humans are not needed. The reality is that change is coming and being a country that is able to adapt is non-negotiable. Education has been a pain point and South Africa is ranked a low 123d on the Global Competitiveness index for Health and Primary Education. Education is a critical factor to the challenges that a new revolution would bring forth and ensuring that a new generation can hold their own in a changing world will make the difference between those running the race well and those falling out along the way. Adapting education models is an important measure to be put in place if South Africa wants to approach the fourth industrial revolution with courage.

In our experience, it is evident that successful disruption is often birthed within a start-up atmosphere. Where current incumbents, especially in the financial sector, are faced with issues such as integration and legacy systems, a start-up with a dedicated and talented team and a great innovative idea have a greenfield approach that lends itself toward disruption.

Drawing the parallel to country-wide development there is a case for cheering on Africa and South Africa’s jump to the fourth Industrial Revolution modelled as a start-up with leeway to embrace the new era and its corresponding shifting boundaries. Leapfrogging some of the essential factors of previous revolutions toward a new disruptive way of using computer systems to address fundamental social problems. But investments in skills, particularly software development and the required infrastructure will need to be fast-tracked to create an enabling environment for the innovative nature of South Africans – to not just keep up with the rest of the world but to leverage a strong innovative culture and excel.

                               by Charlotte Hauman

 

Our book is yet unwritten

2016 was a year of discovery, of adventure, of breaking boundaries. For many it’s been a year of unparalleled innovation – especially for those of us that live in experimental spaces. We’ve long known that innovation is for the brave – those souls who dare to speak out, the curious ones asking “But who says?”.
As I reflect on bravery or courage or heroism, it dawns on me that bravery in any of its forms is remarkably like crazy – or is this simply a matter of perspective?

2016 was a year of discovery, of adventure, of breaking boundaries.  For many it’s been a year of unparalleled innovation – especially for those of us that live in experimental spaces. We’ve long known that innovation is for the brave – those souls who dare to speak out, the curious ones asking “But who says?”

img_6768As I reflect on bravery or courage or heroism, it dawns on me that bravery in any of its forms is remarkably like crazy – or is this simply a matter of perspective? Much of our lives as innovators requires us to quiet the voices in our heads yelling out “You can’t do that! It’s crazy!”. And it’s exactly this act of changing perspective that allows us to see possibility and create a new future – to disrupt our worlds. It takes a special kind of crazy to question assumptions that are years old, to challenge ideals and concepts that work well enough, to be that person in the room asking “why?”

In Adam Grant’s “Originals” (if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? It’s incredible!), he speaks about “Vuja De” –  the obvious reverse of Déjà vu – the concept of facing something familiar but seeing it with a fresh perspective that enables new insights into old problems.

In today’s world of work, one of the biggest issues we face is creating spaces where people can bring their excellence, where the uniqueness of the individual can be expressed to create winning innovation.  How do we create that winning culture?

For years we’ve followed the rules on how “work” is, a kind of imaginary Encyclopaedia Britannica of how we work. But that imaginary book was written before “we” were working! It was written before many of “us” entered the world of work! Us being women and millennials and innovators and also closet creatives, and evening gardeners and day-time-suit-wearing-iron-men and also… well, most everyone.

Let’s face it, this book was written for a bunch of folk who are now in the minority. And don’t get me wrong, it worked really really well back then, but for “us” in the workplace now, it really does fall short. Many of us feel that our workplaces just don’t enable the way we need to work. So why then are we still using that imaginary book as our core reference guide?

That way of work was perfect for specific workplaces, for a workforce that were all very similar (or were told that they had to be) and for a time that was, well…industrial revolution. We’re in a whole new time, with a whole new workforce, and yet – there is no new book!  We have moved from a world where work was about creating consistency, to a world where work is about embracing each individual’s unique contribution and, if we wish to see that reality, it means we are going to need that bravery to change our worlds of work.

img_6779And it’s right about at this point that I hear Natasha Bedingfield belting out “I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned” and then…a great big ol’ penny drops…it’s time to do some re-writing!

In 2017 I’m keen to see these new chapters take shape.  Let’s take the time to write “the Wikipedia of work” for our future, one that works for us, one that creates space for innovation, for creativity, one that allows every person to thrive, one that isn’t creating a whole workforce of ill-fitting pegs.

We have already rewritten the chapter on dynamic working (literally rewritten), but there are still many chapters that we haven’t even begun to write. We’ve only just started the chapters on what the world of work look could like for single moms? What about the chapters on working dads? Or insomniacs? Or those that live far from their workplaces? Or nocturnals?

And what about the chapter on success? Does it still mean becoming the CEO? Really? What is success if you believe in balancing family and sport and work and creative hobbies? What could that chapter look like?

And what is a career? Is it really a straight-line 20-year plan? What if there was a chapter on changing careers mid-way? Or one on taking a break from your career? Or one on how to come back after a break?

Now is the time for a massive cultural innovation.  It’s the time for new chapters. It’s time for all you brave crazies out there to start recreating, it’s time to get writing. Take it home Natasha… “Live your life with arms wide open, today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten”

by Liesl Bebb-McKay

Brain food for the festive season

If you are looking for a bit of inspiration over the holiday season then have a look at some of our team’s favourite TED talks all wrapped up in a festive poem.

foundery-christmas-banner-image

As the year comes to an end with the festive season in full swing,
Perhaps you’d like to watch a little something inspiring!

If you only have three minutes here is one to make you smile,
Or get yourself some radical wisdom if you have a while.

Andrew can help you if you have a story waiting to hatch;
You’ll need tissues nearby when you see this windmill made from scratch!

Can you relate to a master procrastinator who shares what’s in his head?
Or if you have cool science to share then listen to what Melissa said.

Finally, don’t miss your chance to see these amazing drones fly!
And with that, from us at Foundery: Go well! ‘Till next year! Goodbye!

christmas-hat-2

If rhyming couplets aren’t your thing then here is a more systematic list of some of our team’s favourite TED talks:

  • Terry Moore – How to tie your shoes (2:59)
  • Ricardo Semler – Radical wisdom for a company, a school, a life (21:42)
  • Andrew Stanton – The clues to a great story (19:09)
  • William Kamkwamba – How I harnessed the wind (5:59)
  • Tim Urban – Inside the mind of a master procrastinator (14:03)
  • Melissa Marshall – Talk nerdy to me (4:34)
  • Raffaello d’Andrea – Meet the dazzling flying machines of the future (11:35)

 

If you enjoyed these and you want more then go to ted.com/surpriseme where you can specify the amount of time you have and the kind of talks you’d like to see (jaw-dropping, beautiful, informative, etc.) and the algorithm will curate something for you there and then.

Thank you to everyone from the Foundery team who contributed to the compilation of this list by sharing their favourite TED talks!

by Bryony Martin

Kenya’s mobile money story: the runaway success of M-Pesa

Development finance and corporate banks alike have long wrestled with the issue of banking the unbanked in the developing world, which would encourage broad-based socio-economic development on the one hand, as well as greater product distribution for the private sector banking institutions.

http://martinpasquier.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Mpesa-agent-shack-kenya-afrikoin-mobile-money-martin-pasquier-emerging-markets-innovation.jpg
Image credit: http://martinpasquier.com

Development finance and corporate banks alike have long wrestled with the issue of banking the unbanked in the developing world, which would encourage broad-based socio-economic development on the one hand, as well as greater product distribution for the private sector banking institutions.

However, bringing greater financial inclusion to the bottom of the pyramid no longer means universal branch bank account ownership. Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa, particularly in one of the continent’s emerging fintech hubs, Kenya.

http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2011/04/kenya-leapfrogs-the-rest-of-the-world-with-its-mobile-money-services.html
Image credit: http://asmarterplanet.com

In 2006, before M-Pesa was launched, 25% of Kenyans had access to banking products. By 2014, this figure had jumped to 68%. Almost half of these users do not have a formal bank account, indeed, formal banking sector inclusion in Kenya remains as low as 23%. However, the M-Pesa platform performs the essential financial transactions:  deposit and withdraw money, transfer money to other M-Pesa users and non-users, pay bills and purchase airtime. M-Pesa agents are as ubiquitous as pavement airtime kiosks, whose owners have been duly trained and are incentivised by clipping a commission per M-Pesa transaction. This is the kind of distribution network that most ATM-driven banks can only dream about.

This context is not unique to Kenya. Small wonder then that Sub-Saharan Africa is a global leader in the use of mobile money technology. On average 16% of the adult population actively uses a mobile money product in the region; the global average is 2%. Of the 18 countries in the world that have more mobile money accounts than bank accounts, only one, Paraguay, is not in Africa.

The significance of M-Pesa and the mobile money products like it is the potential it holds for retail financial access in the developing world and the money to be made in doing so. As the trail-blazer in this innovation space, Safaricom now generates a reported 10% of its revenue through providing a transactional banking platform for that segment of the population conventional financial institutions did not consider worth it to bank.

[Reprinted with permission from Observer Research Foundation].

by Lucy Corkin

 

Read the full story originally published by Observer Research Foundation website here.

 

The Observer Research Foundation is India’s leading policy think-tank seeking to lead and aid policy thinking towards building a strong and prosperous India in a fair and equitable world. ORF has the mandate to conduct in-depth research, provide inclusive platforms and invest in tomorrow’s thought leaders today.

lucy-corkin-rmb1-cropped2Lucy Corkin is Business Manager at RMB Africa, having joined RMB as a Class Of in 2012. She has a PhD in International Relations from SOAS, University of London, and has picked up a couple of languages along the way, including French, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese. She is a regular contributor for the Observer Research Foundation where she gets to share her thoughts on goings on in Africa, the world of banking, and anything else that grabs her attention.

5 simple steps to turning ideas into reality

Fintechs — and start-ups in general — are many and varied and, although we are definitely leaps ahead of the banking of the past, we still have work to do in creating sustainable change in the banking ecosystem. Here are 5 simple steps we believe can get you to meaningful banking transformation.

aeroplane-boyFintechs — and start-ups in general — are many and varied and, although we are definitely leaps ahead of the banking of the past, we still have work to do in creating sustainable change in the banking ecosystem. Here are 5 simple steps we believe can get you to meaningful banking transformation.

Before we get into the details, a small spoiler alert is necessary…simple does not mean easy. In many cases, simple means quite the opposite of easy…you need to lose weight? (Don’t we all?) The solution is simple — quit sugar, kill the complex carbs, eat small meals and exercise at least 3-4 times a week — you see it’s simple!

But, we all know it’s not that easy. When that alarm goes off at 5am on a winter’s morning, how easy is it to drag yourself, your internal maniac kicking and screaming, from your delicious, cosy warm cocoon? Or when that 3pm slump hits and the vending machine choccies lure you closer with promises of joy and comfort and everlasting fulfilment, how easy is it to keep the craving at bay? You get the point.

In creating the necessary change for the banking ecosystem, we can apply 5 simple (but not easy) steps:

STEP 1: BELIEVE IN POSSIBILITY

Boy in boxIf you believe that change is an imperative, and if you know that you need to create an impact in the banking space, then believe that you can change your world — and you will. A person who believes deeply is infectious — the stronger your belief, the more infectious your ideas, and the more profound the impact you can make.

Shifts always begin with a great idea and a great passion — if you have the idea or passion, trust that you can make it happen. Note to self: if you could believe in Santa Claus for like 8 years, you can believe in yourself for like 5 minutes…you’ve got this!

We have a massive amount of data in our heads that gets drowned out in the daily hubbub. We don’t need to hire a consultant or an expert to solve the problem for us…“they” or “the head of” or “the consultant” don’t know the answer that you already know — you know your business better than anyone else, you know your client better than anyone else, and you know the dissatisfaction better than anyone else — you just need the time to figure it out.

STEP 2: BUILD A TEAM THAT BELIEVES WITH YOU

There is something magical in the power of a pack. “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” ― Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book.

Once you begin the disruption conversation, you will realise the overwhelming number of others who believe that change is an imperative and who are looking for a place to make a difference.

Influence can be as powerful as the individual, but impact can be exponentially improved as a small team. Disruption in banking requires significant influence and (by definition) uncomfortable change by challenging assumptions. You will need a powerful pack with you in this journey. That may mean partnering differently or with players you have not considered allies in the past.

STEP 3: UNDERSTAND THE DIARY OF DISSATISFACTION

boxing-with-robotInnovation always stems from need. We identify needs most easily when they aren’t met. We need to be better at recording, and then challenging, our daily dissatisfactions.

Very few ideas actually happen in a flash of blinding clarity. All big solutions start with just a hunch. We circle around them for a long time before we finally hit the mark (and most often, a whole group of people hit the mark at the same time) and it’s the bravest who get the glory — think Darwin.

So what dissatisfaction exists in delivering the needs for banking as we define them? And, be brutally honest about what this dissatisfaction is — don’t just pick the easy answer. Opportunity exists when there is a frustration or a barrier to entry. What people want doesn’t change — how they get it does.

STEP 4: FEEDBACK IS YOUR FRIEND

As a leader of change, you really need to know who you are leading. To create sustainable disruption, you need to test your thinking — widely, and repeatedly! Feedback is a powerful tool in honing the product you have and the language that will be appropriate for your organisation. You’ve probably heard the rule of mathematics: if it feels easy, you’re doing it wrong.

In the rest of life, if it feels too difficult you are doing it wrong, especially when it comes to creating change. Each organisation will require its own language and its own solutions. If it feels too difficult, get feedback and tweak the strategy until it begins to feel right for you.

To make an impact, we have to accept that we will fail in some way. So, what are you waiting for? The only way to get to an answer is to experiment. Experimentation in a highly regulated industry sounds pretty frightening – but remember that if the frustration or barrier to entry make delivering the need too difficult — there will be disruption — you are going to have to experiment with how to do that yourself. We are taught from tiny that failure really isn’t a great idea, and in banking even more so, but if you are going to be a really disruptive, you need to create an environment where good and bad ideas are embraced…simple….not easy.

STEP 5: KEEP ON KEEPING ON

Rocket boyThere will be failures and mistakes and difficult conversations, but each of these acts as an opportunity to adjust the strategy and to refocus on the end goal. In these moments, remember the steps: believe in possibility, the pack is bigger than the wolf, get into conversation, seek feedback and just keep on keeping on.

We said at the outset that these steps may not be easy. So, how do you start? It’s a simple case of ready, steady, GO! Just like quitting sugar, if you know your end goal and the reason you need to achieve it, you can access the power within you and then just start. Drag off those warm winter covers, say no to the vending machine and take the first step. The beginning may not be easy, but once you’re on the road it feels pretty great, and the satisfaction as you see the change happen is well worth the effort.

by Liesl Bebb-McKay