This month I travelled to Nigeria to give a series of talks and workshops on Creativity and Innovation to the Young Presidents Organisation, a chief executive group in Lagos. Here is the second part of the story.
The Workshops and talks
The YPO is more than a networking group. The members are the leaders of some of the largest businesses in Lagos. As well as offering expert speaker sessions they have regular meetings to mastermind each others business (and personal) problems in what they called ‘forums’, offering each other their shared knowledge and experience. I was told of a time when one member had died and his forum ran his business for his family up to the point, a few years later, that it could be sold. My first task was to give a 4 hour seminar to the key managers of the members companies. There were 50 in attendance. It was a large air conditioned room above a modern and spacious Chinese restaurant. There were moments throughout my stay when the power would suddenly turn off for a few seconds and the fans would stop briefly. Luckily I don’t rely on Powerpoint or other electronic trickery. The session went well and everyone appeared engaged and understood both my accent and my references which can be a concern when you speak in a different part of the world. The point of the session was to understand creativity, looking at why it’s important, what stops it and how to be more innovative in the workplace.
In one part of the session I collect business cards for a ‘raffle’ at the end to win a copy of my book. One chap not only put 6 of his cards in the box, but also 6000 Naira (about $40). He also put in his driving licence and National Insurance card. He knew my book was available to buy for 3500 Naira. So why did he do it? Was he being innovative, trying to stand out? Was he showing off? Or was it something else?
The second session the next day was different as it was to just the twelve executive leaders. These were proper business leaders running large and successful businesses, many in manufacturing. These were people who really knew what they were doing and it was an honour to be able to speak with them. We focused on how to embed an atmosphere of creativity and innovation in a company. We looked at how to encourage and foster ideas that come from the creative individuals that work in the organisation and how all this is directly linked to increased profit and long lasting success.
It was my third day in Nigeria before I got to really see something of Lagos. We went out for meals in the evenings but the rest of the time I was in the workshop sessions or the hotel. We got on board a boat and headed out along the coast to spend the day at the beach with the executives wives and children. It looked like a wide river estuary but we were actually sailing between island archipelagos. From the boat I could see the buildings of Lagos, many under construction or re-construction. Then we passed into more industrial coastline, close to large rusty container ships, some that had partially sank. The coast then became littered with blackened corrugated squaller. Presumably people lived there. Real poverty when you see it up close looks frightening and dangerous. Eventually the coast changed again to thick forests of palms. Deep in these coconut woods lived more poor villagers. They had almost nothing but the wooden houses made from the palms. They helped run the beach houses along the front which was where we docked.
We had a barbecue, a swim and then I performed a 30 minute children’s show with my guitar (for ages 3 to 8) and later another session for mainly the ladies with songs and improvisation. I can even claim to have dipped in the sea, but only knee deep, anything more would have allowed the intense current to sweep us out towards Antarctica. The eight foot waves would have been the envy of Devon’s surfers. We came back on speedboats in 30 minutes (much quicker than the barge that took 2 hours to get there). The boat that set off ahead of us sank, they just had time to get ashore.
(Photos: Top: The sea between archipelagos. Middle: The beach house. Bottom: The speedboat prior to sinking)