AKINYEMI: Covid-19 a wake-up call to managers on problem-solving skills

Tuesday May 5 2020

team

Every problem in an organisation requires different approaches. PHOTO | FILE 

By The EastAfrican

Years ago, one of my favourite authors was a man by the name René Lodge Brabazon Raymond, who was well known by his pseudonym James Hadley Chase.

His novels were exciting and it was always difficult to put them down once you opened the first page. They were stories of intrigue, wealth and power and a true dreamer’s handbook. Nothing best describes the world of so many around the world today like the title of one of the James Hadley Chase novels — The way the cookie crumbles.

All over the world the last few months has seen so many cookies literally crumble. These are concepts and ideas that at a point and which as recently as six months ago seemed to be very brilliant ideas but suddenly they are now worthless. Airlines are grounded. Tourism is a thing of the past. Hotels are shut. Movie theatres are empty. Production houses cannot produce new movies. Restaurants can only do home delivery. Churches are shut. Sporting events are shut. Operas exist only in our memory. What a world. What a season!

In 2014, I wrote a book titled Metal Independence. Looking at it today it almost seems like a prophetic warning of a day when what made us brilliant would no longer make us brilliant. It talked about the great big disruption. The only thing is that when writing I was thinking of disruptions coming from innovation and not from an unseen enemy called Covid-19. Robert Greene in the book 33 Strategies of War wrote that: "The greatest generals, the most creative strategists, stand out not because they have more knowledge but because they are able, when necessary, to drop preconceived notions and focus intensely on the present moment. This is how creativity is sparked and opportunities are seized."

The 18th president of the US, Gen Ulyses Grant was a graduate of West Point Military Academy, which is respected worldwide and has produced two presidents, over 70 medal of honour recipients and numerous famous generals. Grant brilliantly explained why some of their generals failed in battle; some of our generals failed because they worked out everything by rule. They knew what Frederick did at one place and Napoleon at another. They were always thinking about what Napoleon would do. I don't underrate the value of military knowledge, but if men make war in slavish observance to rules, they will fail. War is progressive.

We are at war friends. As such we cannot rely on the thinking of the past because no war is the same. Every war must be embarked upon based on its own unique circumstances. Covid-19 is a unique war. This is why you need to expand your thinking like you have never done. It is a compelling temptation to always look back at precedents to determine actions that will affect the future. Unless we expect the future to be a replica of the past, experience must not be given a centre stage in our decision making. It is easier and it does have its place but we must never become slaves to it, we need to develop the boldness to enter into the no man's land sphere of thinking. The pendulum has swung and it’ll never return to its original state. This is the time to beef up training on topics like Creative Thinking because it is going to take a different way of thinking to navigate these waters. A manager who is used to sitting at a desk and managing people he can see and summon is now faced with a new reality of remote managing of teams.
Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks

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