Education is critical to developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are essential for economic vitality and growth. It develops individual talent and responsiveness, to open and deepen one’s understanding of the world around them. It also provides the skills one requires to be economically productive and earn a living meaningfully.
However, some many people argue that most education systems in Africa were not designed to meet the challenges we face today. This, therefore, calls for a complete overhaul of the system across the continent to refocus it to the needs of the continent, as well as individual countries.
Transforming education systems becomes more important when organisations are increasingly seeking talented and creative workers to meet the challenges of a world that is changing faster than ever, and facing unprecedented challenges. Educational institutions now face the additional challenge of teaching entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.
One of the consequences of the mismatch between education and changes in the world economies is that organisations everywhere are competing for scarce talent. Companies are finding it hard to find the ‘right’ people, and when they do find them, they are often hard-pressed to retain them. Organisations of the future need people who can think creatively, communicate; and are flexible team players, who can adapt and learn quickly. But often, these people are very hard to find.
The recently-concluded 11th Rwanda National Dialogue Council (NDC) indicated that for Rwanda to meet its Vision 2020 goals, the productivity of its workers needed to increase in order to influence national productivity.
The NDC was told that while labour productivity has increased by 59 per cent since 2001, especially in agriculture, and through creation of off farm jobs, to achieve the Vision 2020 growth targets, labour productivity must double. Further, to reach the average among lower middle-income countries, productivity must grow fourfold. This is a daunting challenge.
Pushing for and creating a culture of creativity and innovation can contribute to the desired increase in productivity. Fostering a culture of innovation will only work if the initiative is led from the top of the organisation, however.
The endorsement and involvement of leaders means everything if the mind-set of the organisation is to change. If organisations (and this can be extended to include the national developmental goals) are to succeed, we need creative leadership at the highest levels to facilitate the creative abilities of every member of the organisation. Truly, everyone in an organisation is capable of contributing creative ideas to its development. This means that for innovation to succeed, it has to be central to the purpose of the whole organisation rather than a separate function or the preserve of “senior management”.
This may entail moving away from a leadership style of command and control towards a more collaborative and teamwork mode. Creative leadership means ensuring that everyone in the organisation is playing to their creative strengths and feels that their contribution is valued as part of the overall performance of the organisation.
People join firms from different backgrounds and with diverse profiles, but they are usually perceived only on the basis of their educational background and current job descriptions. Different employees have different experiences and are, therefore, capable of contributing creative ideas to the development of the firm, and also offer valuable insights on how it can be improved.
Organisations where personnel are consciously engaged have been shown in recent studies to be more productive, profitable and capable of creating stronger customer relationships. As the renowned business consultant, Peter Richards, puts it, a creative organisation is first and foremost a place that gives people freedom to take risks.
Second, it is a place that allows people to discover and develop their own natural intelligence. Third, it is where there are no “stupid” questions and no right answers and fourth, it is a place that values challenge, where lively, dynamic and surprising workers are allowed to have fun.
The power of innovation and creative leadership means that organisations make the most of their people. These companies find that employees make the most of them, too. Therefore, if we are looking to build innovation and creativity and subsequently increase productivity, we must instil a creative culture in our organisations. To succeed, a culture of creativity has to involve everybody, not just a select few.
The writer is the PricewaterhouseCoopers Rwanda advisory technology director