The last few weeks have seen high-powered meetings called to discuss one or other important issue at the national, county and corporate level. One such meeting was called to discuss the funding of Agriculture and attended by the Vice President. These important meetings remind me of a meeting called by the gods.
“Not long ago in the world of spirits, there came about a famine. People were no longer praying to the gods. This caused great consternation to the gods to the extent that they called a meeting to pray about it. At the meeting, each of the gods stood and expressed their concerns over the grave matter. Finally, the great gathering was called to prayer. Suddenly a deep silence settled on the hall as each god considered to whom they should pray. Since they were the normal recipients of prayers, they could not think of anyone to whom they should pray. Eventually since they could not agree to whom they should pray, the meeting ended in disarray. “
This story explains why many meetings called to address pressing issues do not come out with workable resolutions to real problems. Instead of focusing on the solution, meetings are simply called to express the concerns of various parties about the problem. While this may be important, these meetings hardly resolve the issues that require people with the heart to work hard and follow through with a solution. It also begs the question whether the people discussing the problem are competent to resolve the core issue. Indeed leadership issues are complex, but problems solving cannot take place at a meeting. Steve Jobs, a man who is credited with exceptional leadership ability and resolving major technology challenges in three global industries says, “When you first look at a problem, it seems easy because you don’t know much about it, he said. Then, you get into the problem and you see it’s really complicated and you come up with all these convoluted solutions. Most people stop there. But the key is to keep going, he said, until you find the underlying principle of the problem and sort of come full circle with a beautiful, elegant solution that works.” (Blumenthal)
Obviously, Jobs was a man of superior intellect, but he has left us a code to get a solution that works. The reason Africa’s problems repeat themselves and become the subject of meeting after meeting is that the issue is forgotten, pushed aside immediately after the meeting or may be provided with a “convoluted” solution that does not work. Nobody follows through. Most of us stop at the resolutions passed by the meeting and fail to “keep going” to find the underlying principle of the problem.
The discussion of funding for agriculture and genetically modified foods reminded me of President Mutharika’s agriculture miracle in Malawi several years ago. In a few short years, he was able to turn the country into a self-sufficient-surplus producing breadbasket. One would have thought that the solution should have been sustainable – not so. The underlying principle of the problem does not seem to have been resolved. We are unable to create a beautiful, elegant solution that works. Many of our solutions are convoluted answers to ostensibly simple questions.
The gods never solved the problem because they did not address the famine. The fact that the people were experiencing a famine was the issue, not prayers. Problems in Africa may persist because no one goes back to the ground to the root of the problem to research, design and actually create a solution that works.
Our significant weakness in addressing national issues in meeting after meeting, is our lack of commitment and courage to do something about it. This is what Adadevoh calls the, “inward flaw that makes many Africans shy away from taking responsibility for changing their situation”. This may sound like a harsh and unfair judgment of Africa’s leadership situation, but evidently, our problems continue to persist predictably in the same form year after year. Many of these problems do not require dramatic intervention to eradicate. But they do require disciplined, dedicated self-sacrificing men and women to create beautiful, elegant solutions that work on the ground. The reason why Nike and Kenyan athletes work together so well is they just do it! However, creating solutions is far beneath the role of gods.