The themes of growth, values, mentorship and leadership are some of my most endeared themes. I started life learning to embrace learning and growth, sharing what I have learnt with others willing to ‘sip’ and taking lessons from the lives of others – people i regard as ‘illuminares’.
On November 11, 2017, I gave a TEDx talk on “The Future of Mentorship – and what we can do about it” at TEDxIsaleGeneral. Beyond sharing some thoughts on this theme – which is off the beaten track, according to a mentor – I savoured the moments i had learning from other speakers and attendees. Everyone is a story worth sharing!
As requested, below is a -rough- transcript of the talk on The Future of Mentorship. I’ll include the link to the video when I get it from the TEDx team. I will love to read your thoughts either in the comments, via mail or on Twitter.
Future of Mentorship and What to do about it
December 12, 2012, with the help of a few friends, I started an annual leadership programme that grew from accommodating less than 30 emerging young leaders from Nigeria to over 200 young leaders from more than 35 countries. About five years into building Studership from a project to some sort of community, it struck us that we failed in one of our responsibilities.
While we succeeded in connecting and promoting drive for development in the hearts of these young people, we felt that we failed. We felt we failed because we didn’t provide a structured mentorship system for each and everyone of them.
After a couple of conversations with some fellows, I observed a pattern; though we didn’t make the mentorship component visible, mentoring happened nonetheless. Among participants. Within leadership learning teams. Within the community. In subtle and fluid manner.
Mentorship is an individual and corporate investment in hope. One of the best mentoring relationships I have had is with someone, who strives daily to be dispensable; He strives to make himself increasingly unnecessary – though available. True mentorship evolves from the diminishing dependence of the mentee on the mentor.
One of the things my experiences with mentors and mentees have taught me, is how to study and understand elements of the future. The fast changes in technological advancement and human desires will also influence what we (and generations after us) know as true mentorship.
Mentorship of the future will be influenced by what I refer to as the koinoina effect. The koinoina effect is that state of wholeness caused by deeply unique fellowship, communion and partnership in a relationship.
Briefly, let us analyse what trends to expect about about the future of mentorship: [here are three things that will characterize mentorship of the future].
1. Mentorship in the future will be characterized by a mix of high human touch and high-tech. Like we do today, we’ll continue to leverage technology to make communication, learning and collaboration easier, while holding on to – and ‘incentivising’ the – values of love, trust and compassion. Societies, clusters, organisations and individuals that thrive will be those who encourage the tradition of honesty, vulnerability and openness.
2. The line distinguishing roles of mentors and mentees will be diminished, making it easy for both parties to switch roles fluidly, at interval.
3. In few years, there will be the emergence of an artificial intelligent (AI) mind – one that has access to several other algorithmic systems and data – capable of delivering personalized advises, guidance and mentoring to individuals based on data-symmetry of individuals we admire and long to learn from. Through meta-learning – this AI will learn about our most preferred role models and can advise me based on knowledge about them.
With a very subtle presence, this AI will work like other algorithms that help us with search or recommend friends we should connect with, but with more sophisticated abilities. Using surveillance and sousveillance technologies, it will be capable of making knowledge of and from the greatest minds alive (that can be your dad, mum, the richest individual in the world, your most adored political/business figure – whoever you want). This AI will be capable of advising you based on the knowledge of whoever you admire all at once – using on available data about each of them, and their up-to-date individual online experiences. The company(ies) that control this AI will be rich in data, and the users of these AI will ‘always’ get correct, predictive responses.
Will you take advice from an AI mentor?
With the exciting revelations and experiences awaiting us in future, we must remind ourselves of the roles we need to play to enhance our humanity.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
First, more than before, there is the need for deeper connection with people and greater investments in people. Mentorship involves the peddling of hope.
Second, we need to increase our awareness of the ethics of the technology we make use of, and request that we – as a people – are at the center of our data. We need to request and ensure that while interacting with any technology, our values are recognised and honoured.
Third, we need to do some soul-searching, ask and find novel answers to some questions. How do we reconcile what technology does with the need to incentivise character values that make life worth living? How can we make that merge? How can we individually and collectively promote deeper connection within ourselves, among our communities and the generality of mankind?
Finally, we need to value our collective culture beyond race, ethnic background, sexual orientation and political inclination. I refer to the culture of being human Over the course of the future, we need to allow our relationships reflect our humanity- our abilities to be helpful, loving, trustworthy, compassionate and human.
In the end, all we have is one another.
What future of mentorship do you see?
Over the course of the summer, I joined the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University to contribute to the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence for societal interest initiative, with the Youth and Media team. I had an interest in the development of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies; most importantly, how these technologies and developments can be tools for solving some of biggest problems the world face and aid better leadership and public impact.
In this piece, I shared my thoughts on the need for continental renaissance to shape the future of AI and how to spur a conscious involvement from stakeholders across Africa and the Global South.
I have always caressed the subject of innovation and strategy. One thing that is obvious is that most times, some of the best ideas come from the unconnected. Over the last four years, I have seen myself brainstorm on and advice on several ideas – some are on areas I don’t have core expertise on but I had strong vibe to learn and grow. These areas are what Frans Johansson calls the intersection in his book ‘The Medici Effect’.
The Intersection is the unknown territory where we cannot easily apply past knowledge and experience. Some of the most successful innovations come from the place of interception.
For me, the intersection is uncomfortably soothing – and I love the challenge, knowledge and comfort it brings. I remember a discussion with my Dad earlier this year, where I confided in him that sometimes, deep down in my heart, I really don’t know how to recommend the paths I tread to others. Not because I don’t want others to learn, but because those paths don’t seem conventional and connected.
People stay in a field – even when they are convinced they shouldn’t – because of the time spent in the field. Lots of emerging professionals continue with what they do unhappily because they have spent years studying a thing, even when their hearts aren’t there. I have seen people whose ONLY reason for proceeding with further studies (Masters/PhD for instance) in a field is that they studied that subject in their first degree (even when they don’t like it). I have seen businesses stick to what they used to do that didn’t work because they thought that is their niche. The decision to invest more time (and resources) in anything should be based on what’s going to happen in future.
I agree that consistency is very important; it makes sense to be a expert in an area. What if we can throw that ‘long-standing caution’ in the wind, and embrace innovation and ideas outside of our current domain of expertise? We must never allow what we have done in the past become a criterion for what we can do in the future.
What drives me in most things I do is how I can understand how these unconnected sectors work and how we may influence the future of education and governance through technology and values-based leadership. This seems audacious and will require me to be comfortable staying at intersections – even if they don’t seem to pay off at the moment.
Embracing intersection requires that we acknowledge our fears and embrace risks – it is not as easy as writing this, but it is worth it. It means embracing the risk of forming new relationships in the new field, learning at an exponmential rate and I agree that the intersection unleashes great creative powers through the explosion of concept combinations; for those thinking about ground-breaking innovation, this can represent a gold mine of ideas.
For several months, I and the team at LEAD Resources have been recommending that entrepreneurs think mobile first, when building products and services; we have mentioned this at masterclasses and on the #SMEClinic radio program. With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution and the seemingly prevalence of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies of this generation, I think it is imperative for the maxim to change beyond mobile first.
AI, or Artificial Intelligence hold awesome potentials in being used as a tool to solving some of the challenges we face. From ensuring personalized experiences while learning, to giving us the best of experiences in business advertising, to its potential for suiting experiences that can shape public governance, the application of AI seem boundless.
This is where it gets exiting: most of our smart phone devices have romantic relationship with artificial intelligence to give us best experiences. Governments can start thinking about People+Mobile+AI first to give citizens much more freedom in suggesting solutions; with a smart phone, GPS and some elements of AI, citizens should be able to suggest roads that need repairs, track and follow public expenditure. This will change the face of campaigning, without doubt (in future, we will have campaigns targeted at individuals rather than mass market) – in the same vein, solutions can. The purpose of governance is to deliver freedom that helps all citizens identify and fulfil purpose.
With AI and Mobile, businesses build more personalised products and create services that connect with users at a personal level. The way we consume content will be seriously affected; passive consumption model may no longer work – while this may be a good thing, it requires conscientious efforts to make it count for good. Smarter cities become much more realistic. Will empathy in technology count here?
The future of education, governance and innovation will be shaped by the tools we have. Artificial intelligence is one of these tools; how might we use it in making the world a better place, for all?
Technology holds enormous potentials in every sector of the economy. Transportation 2.0 is another catchment area we must tilt our education and governance to affect.
India recently unveiled plans to use only electric vehicles by 2030, without depending on any petrol or diesel vehicle. Countries in Africa – Nigeria especially – must start to plan towards a post-oil economy. By 2030, electric and solar vehicles, VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) transporters autonomous vehicles, transport drones and tunnel transportation should be part of our realities.
With the right mix of leadership and economic/business model, these possibilities can be accessible to most people who can’t even afford a car today.
The clock ticks now. We have about 13 years to make this work.
One of the skills important for preparing for the future is empathy. We need to build empathy into our values as leaders. In a similar vein, our friends that write algorithms need to seek ways to build in empathy into their codes.
As these codes and algorithms shape our realities, we need them to be empathetic. Our world becomes better – the relationship between humans and technology becomes much more productive, when values align.
Can we build empathy beyond us?
For some months, I have been exploring new things – stretching the bounds of my learning to other areas. Those who know me can testify that I like sharing; I do most sharing privately. Whenever I read things, the next big thing that I think of – apart from how to put into action the new learning – is who else I can ‘share this with’.
I have had the privilege of peeping into the future and learning from some great minds. Here is a list – not an exhaustive one though – of some books I read in 2016 and highly recommend.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
I have had this book since 2015; read it and went back to it in 2016.
This book delves into the science and art of decision making, further stretching concepts like the truth about relativity, the ‘cost of zero cost’, the problem of self-control and procrastination, the high price of ownership, the power of price, the effect of expectations, the context of our character – and several other realities.
Sometimes, you aren’t always at the driver seat as you think, often times, we are swayed by the perception of our desires than reality. The chapters in the book describe forces that influence our behavior, while we mostly underestimate these forces or completely ignore them.
It is a good read for anyone interested in understanding human behavior, providing enterprise-based solutions to problems and contributing to (economic) policy development. I recommend for social entrepreneurs, policy makers and citizens who intend to see beyond perceptions.
Why Nations Fail
This is one of the best books on governance I have come across by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. I share in the school of thought that no nation can ever rise beyond the quality of its citizens (citizens, not just leaders).
Why do you think nations fail? It isn’t just lack of knowledge, but a combination of several factors. Leadership should be intentional.
Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think
I got to know about Peter Diamandis some years ago, while following the works of the Heretic’s Pascal Finitte. Some years later, I was reading Richard Branson’s adventures in Business Stripped Bare and saw a reference to his work again. Fortunately, I laid hold of the book – Abundance – in 2016.
This book by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler is about improving global living standards both in the developed countries and developing world, tackling global challenges, revealing solutions and embracing / harnessing the strength in evolving exponential technologies. With the myriad of challenges faced in the world today, one basic solution is to raise global standard of living.
We tend to see scarcity often and respond by ‘cutting our coats using austerity measures’. However, one of the better responses to the threat of scarcity is not to try to slice our pie thinner – rather it is to figure out how to make more pies. We are within a generation where we are able to provide goods and services once reserved for the wealthy few, to any and all who need them, or desire them. Through technology, Abundance for all is within our grasp.
I agree that we live in a world of abundance; the thoughts shared in the book relates with some of the thoughts we had talked about when I hang out with some colleagues. The concept of global citizenship, or should I say ‘global solutions making’ is such that ‘solving problem anywhere, solves problem everywhere’. Devoid of what the media wants us to believe, the world is more peaceful than it was a century ago, there is a global reduction in violence and increase in safety, the world is experiencing increasing happiness and equality. AND the future can be better than now.
I have been studying the rise of exponential technologies and the shift to the fourth industrial revolution. The question I ask is how these improvements will translate into better access to personalized education, productive human capital, affordable housing, accessible energy and improved governance for Africa and the billions of people at the base of the pyramid. Studying Abundance further strengthened my resolve to engage these technologies in solving challenges in the areas of education, governance and human capital development.
What other books do you think should be here?
We have flipped the calendar to another year, how might we get the best out of this year? I’ll share seven approaches for getting the best out of the year, together.
Choose a theme
Your theme is like your minimum viable resolution for that year. I know some have seen new year resolutions as a glorified ‘To Do’ list that is set aside by the second week in February. In place of a list of things you wish to do, choose a singular theme for the year.
My theme for 2016 was growth. That of 2017 is exponential growth. Don’t crucify me; I have an insatiable thirst for growth. I may choose other themes for other years, but this is more important to me.
What’s your theme for this year?
Plan for the Upcoming Year
It might sound ‘somehow’, but one of the best approaches for getting the best out of this year is to plan towards the next. If you’ve written some things you plan to accomplish next year, what must you do this year to make things easier and more productive?
Invest in relationships
This is as important as every other thing. Relationship is key. Build a community of people you want to learn from, share with, ideate and grow together. Invest in your relationship with them. Don’t withdraw from the relationship account when you haven’t saved in it.
Get an accountability partner
This just flows from the previous. Get a person or group of people to serve as your accountability partner(s).
Look for happiness and opportunities in each day. When you find them, harness them. Spread the love among those within your growth circle.
Build, break and build again (fast)
Don’t be afraid to try out new things. Build things that matter. If (or when) things break, learn from it and build again. Explore as much as you can.
Improve your capacity to out-learn your previous self
Build skills. In this and future century, leadership, creativity, intuition, empathy, and social / cultural intelligence are important skills that must be built and harnessed.
Start today. Each day in this year is an empty page. What will you write in it? Let’s write a best seller.
Sometimes ago, I was approached to speak with a group of young entrepreneurs during one of their online masterclass sessions. I decided to discuss ‘leadership brand’.
One of the key reasons I accepted to do this is the belief that businesses have a role in influencing change within communities. When individuals are clear about how they want to be remembered, conscious efforts will be made to create real time value for all.
Enjoy excerpts of the conversation below.
What a lovely evening this will be. We are going to share knowledge on building your leadership brand, solve some of the challenges you may have in that regard, and answer your questions.
I am Damola Morenikeji.
For several years, I have committed myself to creating value by inspiring excellence in leadership and governance through education and human capital development.
Let’s get started.
Earlier today, I requested you think about your expectations of this session. What are they?
My expectation is how to make use of leadership brand in building a better business that create value, solves problems and promotes happiness.
I need us to reflect on this. On seeing the brand logo, what’s the first feeling of thing that comes to mind?
We can make this interactive.
Let’s think about this?
I have seen people tell me they want to buy gala (while pointing to Bigi or other brands of sausages).
I had seen people tell me to buy ‘another type of Omo’ while referring to other detergents.
What makes these brands different? Why do they stick? Why do they lead?
And what can we do about that?
True! While most of these brands may be long standing and recognized, emerging businesses always have advantages being underdogs in fields operated by giants.
From our conversations, we all agree that people feel comfortable with these brands not just because they’ve existed for long, but because they’ve portrayed their brands as secure, trusted and produce REMARKABLE VALUE!
Whenever we see cows, we don’t get fascinated, because we see them almost everywhere.
But a Purple Cow will always call our attention. So, how do you use this in establishing your leadership, and projecting your brand?
First, Start with an IDEA.
I’ve been told that ideas rule the world. I actually think that ideas that are well thought out, and implemented actually rule the world. Ideas are capital.
One thing I like about ideas is that they are mystical creatures that need a bodily host to function. Fortunately, the human body and mind are valuable incubators. On ideas, Leke is quick to remind you that ideas tend to appeal to two or more people at the same time. Once they take control of you, it colonies you and drives you to sleeplessness until you effectively birth it, nurture it and make it stand.
Diligently, these ideas show gratitude by rewarding you with wealth, fame, and other things that diligence attracts.
Don’t rush out when you have an idea. Meditate on the idea. Develop conviction. Seek help when needed.
Ask yourself critical questions, ranging from the ease of use, who your potential customers are, the positives and negatives associated with your idea, among others.
Think about the packaging of your idea.
More importantly, ask yourself if you will buy your own idea (product or service)?
Will you buy your own product or service?
Once that is set, work on the four pillars of your / the business.
The business model
The business vision
The business mission
And the business values.
All these are critical in personal and business leadership.
So, let’s start with your vision.
Write your VISION
Craft your vision statement [both for yourself and your business].
When you craft a business statement, you unconsciously tell the world that you are serious about what you do and you are going somewhere.
It shows that you are not in this for a short while. Little wonder the ancient prophet, author and adventurer, Habakkuk, was instructed to “Write down the vision. Make it plain. That he may run that reads it”. Vision statements are propellants of achievements. They must be expressed in simple languages. We must set out basic steps to achieve your vision and attach a timetable.
These steps are referred to as the Business Objectives.
Put the timetable where you can see it everyday, and work on it.
While you read this chat, can you think about your business vision?
Can you write it plainly?
Your vision statement answers the question ‘what do you want to become?’.
Your mission statement, however gives a proposition of what you have for your customers.
To excel in life and business, your business must be people-oriented. It has to be customer-focused.
Once those are cast in stone (or on paper – or typed :)), work on your value proposition. Your value proposition explains what you do. It backs up your mission. You can’t channel your accomplishments into a purpose, without a mission.
Let’s get that, from inception.
So, what exactly does your business do?
Let me make this simple.
A simple mode is this: I help [a] with [b] so that they can achieve [c].
Where [a] is your unique audience, [b] is your solution, and [c] is the outcome.
I believe we are on the same page?
As an example, my value proposition for this training is to provide young entrepreneurs with leadership and branding knowledge, so that they can project their brands, make their customers happy and create more wealth.
Remember that your business is hinged on four pillars: your business model, business vision, business mission and business values.
These four pillars should guide your value proposition and help your brand stand out.
Work on each.
Your path to thought leadership in your area of business requires you have and diligently build a platform.
Develop your CREATIVE LEADERSHIP.
Your creative abilities are enormous. As young entrepreneurs, your creative leadership speaks much of your leadership brand.
We were taught to believe most things around us from childhood before we learnt how to question them.
See your business beyond buying and selling stuffs; rather, see your business as an idea.
This idea is what sticks to the mind of your customers after a contact with you.
For example, most of us stick to some brands because of the idea of satisfaction we derive; the happiness we have from our interaction with their products.
The same can be replicable for your leadership brand.
While I plan to conclude this session, it’s important to note this: please GET DIGITIZED.
That word may not be used in the English dictionary, but I hope you know what I meant.
Get DIGITIZED. Get online. Embrace the use of digital technology to aid productivity.
What do I see when I do a Google search of your name or your business name?
Take some seconds away from this chat and do a search of your name on Google.
Can you proudly share the screenshot?
[You can, if you are proud of what you see.]
You need to curate both your home-base and your embassies.
Your embassies are your social media accounts. They are your representatives in ‘foreign’ lands.
Do you know how funny people might take your brand, when you say you are into clothing and all we see when we check your social media timelines are news of something entirely different?
For those with a good online presence, create a different brand for your business.
There is the possibility that your business will grow to a stage where you will have to hand it over to someone else to run.
Start planning for that, from now.
You CANNOT AFFORD to run a ONE-MAN business.
As starters, we can. However, let’s start planning towards expanding your businesses.
Start a blog, or website.
In this age, it is important for all serious businesses to have an online presence. It is your ‘defacto’ home-base.
Once you have a platform, create credible contents.
Contents can range from blog posts, images, videos. They reflect what your businesses stands for.
Don’t just SELL your products via your platforms. Rather, enlighten people on the essence of embracing what you do.
People seek enlightenment. Provide it and you become valuable.
There are two types of content. Contents that get you attraction and contents that get you sales.
The key thing in being an authority of repute is to share these types of content.
You can make it 80% attraction and 20% of sales.
And finally, be true to what you do. Be a reflection of the value your business offers.
Establishing your leadership brand requires time. It requires credibility and integrity.
I know you can. Let’s get to work!
I’m here to answer possible questions. Let’s get practical.
As we go to bed, let’s take down these challenges.
1. Write down your brand statement. Make it clear. You may get in touch if you need help with that.
2. Work on your brand. Get online. Work hard in creating quality contents. Practice. Practice. Practice.
3. Share your testimonies.
My first encounter with Virtual Reality – without the real immersion – was earlier in 2015. I did up some readings, reviewed some researches about the potency of the technology and somehow, left the thoughts of both virtual and augmented reality for some other things :).
Months later, I joined some great tech minds at the first Virtual Reality MeetUp in Lagos (if not in Nigeria) organised by CuratorsU. The rise in information and seemingly democratisation of Virtual Reality gears are making the virtual / augmented reality experience less expensive and more accessible to people. Just like the smartphone spread across board some years ago, it is possible for VR / AR to be accessible to most people, and contribute to how we measure or achieve productivity.
Here are some random thoughts on how VR and AR may help us become more productive as individuals and a nation.
- Access to education. Can children in violence-prone communities connect to the best learning resources in the world through virtual reality?
- Psuedo-Tourism. My first ‘e-visit’ of the pyramids of Egypt was a 3D experience several years ago. Can the same be built in Virtual Reality? Can African Heads of Government provide that for children who may be interested in knowing how the Office of their President is?
- Election Monitoring. Can citizens have access (through a combination of VR/AR/360 degree live cast) to monitor collation of election results?
- Sports and films. Imagine sitting in your room with your VR headset and seeing the live stream of a match or a movie. This might be an opportunity for actors in the sport and entertainment industry.
- Storing Memories. Can memories of our heroes be stored up in a VR content?
- Can we start seeing documentaries in 360 degree? I know we can – I have enjoyed several documentaries. How about building indigenous contents that surpass global standards.
- How about reviewing how appropriate what you wish to purchase at the market will fit into what you intend using it for – through AR?
- Better productivity from better conversations. How about holding virtual 360 degree meetings?
- Simulations on leadership, team building can be gamified and built on the VR framework; that way, other professionals can get to learn and build their soft skills.
- Hotels and bookings. How about doing a virtual check-out of rooms in hotels before booking them online? Imagine the amount and quality of time that can be saved for other productive things.
What else can be done?
The list is not yet exhaustive; what is your thought on this? What possibilities do you see?
Share your comment below. I will love to know what you think.
Keep doing what you do, as long as it makes positive sense!
Over the last few weeks, I have been having conversations about perseverance, failure and excellence. I heard humbling experiences of friends and colleagues as we all shared moments where we learned from failure and not-too-good moments. When some of these people talk about the successes of what they do, it seems they had never ‘down’ moments.
Tonight, Wisdom and I were checking my cabinet, when we came across the raw hand-written manuscript of a book I wrote in 2006. Ten years ago! Wisdom did some calculations and we both screamed ‘Wow!’. I laid on the bed and smiled as my 14-year old brother read and pointed out some mistakes in the manuscript. He was equally challenged.
Have you been bothered about the mistakes you’ve made (or are making), just breathe. Breathe and breathe. Take out time to review and learn from your actions and the experiences of others.
Lessons: Keep records of the little / big things you do. Take time to review and reexamine what you do. Learn good lessons. When though time comes, remember why you set out, seek relevant lessons from others and quit not.
It works; in business and life.
July 22, 2016. Ng.
If there is one thing i crave insatiably, it is growth.
Few weeks ago, I joined other young African leaders / professionals selected (out of over 14,000 applications) for the US President’s Young African Leaders Initiative RLC Fellowship. I grew. I am still growing – daily.
Our individual commitment to growth is paramount; it influences our leadership, actions and results. The daily actions by friends and partners (even you and others on this platform) to drive positive change around the world is equally commendable. I see you – like I had, before now.
Let’s keep growing, doing and being. We can #BeMore.
[Photo: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US Assistant Secretary of States for Africa) and Damola Morenikeji at the US Ambassador’s Office in Ghana]
Other images, courtesy the US Embassy in Ghana are below.