By Mucai Kunyiha, KAM Chairman , January 18, 2021
2020 distinguished itself with the superlatives and adjectives it acquired for itself; there is no doubt we lived in extraordinary times – when history was made.
For many individuals, businesses, governments and societies, 2021 will be the junction in history, where critical choices and decisions will be made. We have the choice to take a positive turn, a negative turn, or remain in obscurity whilst others make the choice for us. There is no remaining where we are, and history is moving us forward. The world around us is changing and will force change on us. We must, therefore, decide for ourselves and our community, responsibly.
I call this Junction Opportunity. It opens great possibilities for all and invites us to participate actively in changing and crafting a future that works better for us. It is an opportunity for fundamental change – existential, philosophical, and even theological. In these times, we must face the questions we were perhaps afraid to ask.
Our first step to make use of the opportunity is accepting where we are, what we have achieved and the results we do not like. No doubt, we have made progress in the past, yet, no one is under the illusion that we have created the society or economy that our fathers dreamt of, or that our children and grandchildren deserve. We all crave a better future that creates prosperity for all.
I have a core belief in our ability to think and work our way beyond this junction, to a better tomorrow. We have a future and we can positively change ourselves, our culture, economic structure and our destiny. Our future will be constructed by us or others, deliberately or haphazardly. I would rather that it is our active participation and choice that forms that future. We have the ability to use the tools and resources we have to find solutions. Let us not wait for the calvary to come – we are the calvary. What we have in our hands and what we can produce, is sufficient for us to build a prosperous future, if we are thoughtful, deliberate and fully engaged.
To be able to use this crisis as an opportunity, it is important to shift our mindset from only claiming rights (what others should do for us) to committed contribution (what we can do for ourselves and our community). Productivity is an expression of contribution across the board – from business to educational and social levels.
My proposal for that future is that we take a determined turn towards a productivity focus, across all sectors. A productivity worldview would acknowledge that each one of us has unique and particular gifts that they bring to the Universe, given to help us, as individuals and communities, to be better. Productivity goes ahead to ask how these gifts are being put to use, and if they are producing value and utility for you and your neighbour. In other words, we no longer ask ‘what piece of the cake is mine’ but rather ‘what ingredients or role do I bring to bake the cake’.
Producing value relates to multiplication – one becomes two or three or more. You plant a seed and get maize cobs, you convert raw materials into products, you create systems that improve the speed of delivery of healthcare to the community, you get more output from the budget you have been allocated. By creating value, the cake expands and there is more for everyone. Productivity includes utility and value – beyond utility, there is the aesthetic, the cultural, the beautiful and meaningful. We must also ‘produce’ cultural and societal goods that will continue to build our societies, expand our cultural and literal borders.
What would happen if we made productivity the core question in our choices in 2021? What is your productivity as an individual, company, school, community, county or government department? What have you multiplied or improved recently? How are you contributing, not how much do you deserve?
The opportunity then is primarily for a change in mindset and worldview. A change in the questions we ask of ourselves from ‘what do you have’ to ‘what do you bring’. Here lies our chance to change the course of our history.
This is best summed up by Abraham Lincoln, in his 1862 speech to Congress, amid the Civil War, when he said, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country“.
The writer is the Chairman of Kenya Association of Manufacturers