Is Africa’s Financial Innovation Trend Sustainable?

In 2009, I lived a few blocks away from a Blockbuster store in Dallas. My neighborhood was sprinkled with the blue and yellow brand colours of the giant video store until the company went bankrupt in 2010. The story of Netflix’s heralded rise to the top left me curious about how big companies with financial muscle and great talent miss out on hidden opportunities. In 2010, I moved back to Kenya and worked for a small start-up that focused on mobile payment aggregation across Africa. As a team we were buzzing with endless ideas but we lacked the capacity & investment to scale fast enough. So I went to work for a global bank believing that this would be my chance to focus on financial inclusion and launch a notable disruptive platform across the continent. What I came to discover is that there were bottlenecks of corporate protocol that stifled innovation. Some of these bottlenecks included regulatory requirements but the greatest hindrance I believe was the lack of a collaborative culture that encouraged innovative thinking and collective problem-solving within the organization

In reading Creativity, Inc. written by Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar, I realize the common blind spots that both Blockbuster and big international banks in Kenya made was that they both overlooked the hidden opportunities/trends that emerged with the coming of the digital age and thus the market share of these big players declined.

My 15 year career thus far has brought me to a place where I share the same beliefs as Ed Catmull, in that to deliver sustainable success in a disruptive marketplace, there are 3 key areas you need to consider as a leader:

Create a boundary-less organization where employee engagement and collaboration is encouraged.
Develop a culture that values self-expression and “unfettered creativity…this palpable energy creates a sense of possibility” and allows the team to express the best version of their talents.
As Pixar’s co-founder narrates “what makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all of our energies to solve it.”
Moreover, success in today’s world is about an unshakable, die-hard belief in your dream. You need a work environment that allows you to fully express and ship your collective idea to your tribe of customers. My blog – Fikiri Impact (www.fikiriimpact.typepad.com) is about my journey of delivering a piece of mastery into the world. I hope to glean insights that can be used as a catalyst agent to shift mindsets of people wanting to succeed doing business in Silicon Savannah and ultimately wanting to make a difference. I use Creativity Inc. as a guide to uncover a growth leadership mindset that will help entrepreneurs “to develop something meaningful and protect them from the destructive forces that loom even in the strongest companies”.

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