Work takes me to Africa quite a bit. Mostly I spent my time in places that aren’t on the tourist trail: Uganda where it joins South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, Benin just about anywhere, Ghana, rural villages in South Africa, Katatura – the township that butts up to Windhoek Namibia, Rwanda, northern Botswana, and the Namibia/Angola border.
I’ve notice they all have something in common that catches my attention and yet is hard to describe. Wherever I go there is a kind of entrepreneurial innovation at work. People are creating all kinds of business ventures with minimal resources. I’ve talked about it many times as I’ve noticed how different this entrepreneurial activity in the lean world is from that of the fat countries.
Now I have a name for it: Kanju. In her book The Bright Continent Dayo Olopadean takes a ground level view of the energy, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit thriving throughout Africa. As I read the book I realized it is a guide for leaders everywhere for shifting your thinking not just about Africa but about the power of people unleashed to solve their problems themselves…with whatever resources are at hand.
The book starts with a quote from E F Shumacher that captures the problem faced by so many: “A man who uses an imaginary map thinking that it is a true one is likely to be worse off than someone with no map at all.”
So many are following imaginary maps and treating them as thought they are depicting reality. Kanju is based in reality not fantasy. In Yoruba, a Nigerian language, kanju literally means “rush or make haste”. As used colloquially it means “hustle” or “make due”.
The fat world often is run under formality bias. Formality bias: the inability to notice that informal ways are as good as and often better than the structured and formal. The inability to notice that informal arrangements and ways of doing things lead to better results.
Formality bias: an inability to put aside your biases about structure and order and let people create what solves their problems and fills their needs. Overcome formality bias, encourage kanju, unlease the power so many have bubbling within.