Friday, April 27, 2007

I create therefore I am

It was with great pleasure that I learnt that there is no such a thing as a “stupid idea” …and what relief! You see, I cannot even begin to count the number of still-birth ideas that I have carried to term in my mind. These thoughts were buried alive because, for some reason, I was too frightened to voice them.

What? there is no way I was going to run the risk of looking like “the foolish kid on the block…" no way!

Well, that was before I met one Roy Blumenthal. I have since buried my inhibitions. After the session on corporate creativity, the scales have fallen off my eyes and now I can see clearly that my creativity is the one true legacy I will bequeath the world... it MUST be unleashed!

On that note, please read my version of the small print on the “Blumenthal Creativity License”©:-
• A stiffled idea could be a solution suppressed!
• If you can think it (an idea), it is not stupid;
• To unleash your creativity (or while brain-storming), fire all the ideas that cross your mind;
• To allow the free flow of ideas, record your ideas pronto!
• Tame the inner critic so that it will not paralyse your ability to explore the labyrinth of your mind;
• Take a dip into the pool of your thoughts and come up with the ideas that are most likely to solve the problem at hand;
• Prioritise the steps you need to take on the journey to reaching your solution;
• Arise and take action!
• Have some fun while you are at it:)

R.I.P: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here (at Ground Zero) to remember all the creative ideas that died before their time. May we never forget the havoc wrecked by fear-bombs!

SCReeeeACH!!! …I will take this as my cue to stop firing any more of my random thoughts and ideas (and the merciless abuse of this license) …until the next time… pax-blogosphere... Was that a sigh?

Monday, April 23, 2007

He preached wine and drank it… by the barrel!

Three and a half hours slipped by unnoticed as Aki Kalliatakis, MD of Leadership Launchpad, delivered his boisterous and passionate talk on customer care. As our eyes followed his every move across the room, you could see that he had cast a spell on every intern [customer] present. And so it must be with any organisation that aims at growing its business; its focus must revolve around meeting the needs of customers as well as captivating their interests.

Because customers are the life blood of business, care must be taken to find them; win them over; and retain them if a business is to thrive in markets characterised by cut-throat competition. As Kalliatakis pointed out, “... in Africa, when the sun comes up, you had better be running".

The video clip on a bunch of highly motivated fishmongers at demonstrated that work does not have to be a dreary affair. For these 12 world-famous guys, a day’s job incorporates fun, games and profits, all rolled into one. Their positive attitude to work transforms even the most mundane task at Seattle's Pikeplace fish market into a fun activity, and not just for them, but also for the prospective customers.

However, when all is said and done, would I plunge back into the wonderful world of Customer Care? … That my friend, is an entirely different kettle of fish….

As I hang on to every word he said, the words written on the cover-sheet of his presentation rang true. “Delight your customers with positively outrageous service”… and delighted with the customer care lecture Kalliatakis delivered, I was!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dance of Conflict

I had no idea that relationships, organisations and societies needed a bit of friction to thrive. Who would have guessed that a reasonable amount of feather-ruffling was required to optimize productivity? The thing is, conflicts, like fire, make good servants but bad masters and both need to be managed properly, according to Bernice De la Croix. Conflicts urge the parties concerned to come up with solutions in order to improve the dynamics of the relationships.

Conflict is inevitable in human relationships and it should be used as a catalyst for change. De la Croix pointed out that South Africa’s new political dispensation was birthed out of the conflict and the fight against the oppression under Apartheid. The same is true of Zimbabwe’s political crisis in which the citizens today are agitating for change. In response, the world is turning [albeit slowly] its focus on this southern African country. Conflict triggers change.

Creativity and lateral thinking are required in conflict resolution. As was witnessed at Wits this week, one way of resolving society’s conflict and promoting understanding is through dialogue. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and Nadine Gordimer along with Finance Minister Trevor Manuel were hosted by Judge Cameron at the Great Hall, where they discussed the application of economic theories in the production of social justice and development. There was also a Q & A session where the panel fielded various questions [ranging from tax on books to the possibility of reconciling social equality in a capitalistic society,] from the public. The occasion was also graced by South Africa’s first lady, Zanele Mbeki.

Expanding Horizons

When I signed up for the WoW programme, I had some pretty clear ideas about the kind of institutions I wanted to work for. On my short list of prospective employers were media newsrooms and HIV- or development-based research organisations. Well, that was until we had a WoW session with Steve Grudz’s South African Institute of International Affairs(, which opened my eyes to whole new world of possibilities and career options... I feel like a kid in a candy shop…

I am not sure what sparked off the deep unsettling feeling within me. The session provoked me to get off my laurels and act before the rag of underdevelopment completely wipes us off the face of this continent... It is possible that it was Grudz’s passion for Africa that rubbed off on me. It is also not unlikely that the reality of Africa's glaring social, economic and political gaps and issues we discussed stopped me in my tracks and demanded my attention. The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) are Africa’s own home-grown tools and instruments created to address the developmental issues on the continent... some big brother!

Other ‘local’ initiatives that focus on solving Africa’s problems include efforts of people like Anton Gollub of the Johannesburg Housing Company ( These private developers are in the business of building affordable rental houses for the low- to middle-income families.

Gollub interrupted his discussions on the various aspects and challenges of social housing and asked us: “What is your purpose in life? Think about it… it will keep you awake at night”.

Thinking aloud!
I solemnly suggest the possibility that part of my purpose might be realised after my conscription into an army of crusaders who champion the causes of our beloved continent… Something tells me I won’t be getting too much sleep tonight... I will be pondering on this matter of existential proportions …

One thing is for sure though; nothing is cast in stone… least of all, my career interests.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Sorry, the blog administrator has deleted this post.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Be prepared!

“Many interviewers are looking for reasons why they should not employ you, rather than for reasons why they should.”
- Colleen McLintock-Rudnick

One of the common mistakes that internship- and job-seekers make, is to show up for interviews with little or no knowledge of the companies for which they hope to work. This, ill-preparedness, according to Sipho Dayel and Janet Pringle of ECIAfrica is a definite “no – no!”
As Steven Gruzd of SAIIA reminded us, "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression!"

These sentiments were echoed by Raj Naran and Eileen Maleka of Wits’ Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU). They said that once a candidate had secured an interview, he must prepare for it by doing an in-depth research on the company, having mock-interviews and familiarizing himself with common interview questions.

In addition, they gave us tips on how to write a winning CV, which, according to Naran, must be given a lot of thought because its content is “used for the elimination rather than the selection of candidates”.

So far, all the speakers seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. The tune? … “You are a product and you need to market yourself!”

Paradigm shift

“Ask not what your country [read employer] can do for you; ask what you can do for your country [again, read employer]”.
John F. Kennedy – Inaugural speech 1961

This was how I was welcomed by Andrew Hoffmeyr to the WoW programme – and what a wake up call! You see, I had previously imagined that my core duty as a prospective employee was to throw out as many applications to as many prospective employers as I could. I figured that my qualifications could “do the talking for me”, but alas!

Hoffmeyr made it abundantly clear that the notion that “good things happen to those who wait” does not apply to candidates who are serious about pursuing careers in their chosen fields. He said employable individuals were those who took the initiative to do research on specific companies, identified threats or opportunities in specific areas and then tailored possible solutions to address these “gaps”. His parting advice (and challenge) to us was, “Go ye therefore and create jobs for yourselves”.

Bottom-line: Employers are interested in solutions and our employability is determined by the value we can add to any organisation!