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BN Book Excerpt: Hope Is Not A Strategy; Faith is Not a Business Model by Mfonobong Inyang

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As a person of faith, I know the power of hope and the many times it has brought me back up when I hit rock-bottom. I still hope and consistently punch above my weight. Thus the trinity of hope, love and faith have become necessary underpinnings that have carried the core of who I am. One definition of wisdom suggests the ability to recognize differences, to tell one thing from another – disambiguation is a skill I have come to covet. There are many keys of the kingdom, I am not so sure there is one master key. This is instructive because as humans, once something works for us in a certain instance, there is a tendency to apply it as a universal panacea. It’s not enough to know things in terms of what they are but equally important to do so in terms of what they are not.

For example, a calculator is a good thing but it cannot perform the functions of a mobile phone. It’s possible for me to be a great writer but also a terrible lover. A person can have integrity but is a bad leader – two truths about a person or thing can co-exist at the same time. Hope is not a strategy – at best it is fuel for a strategy but not a strategy in itself. When an aeroplane takes off from one airport, the pilot hopes that it lands safely at the destination airport. Beyond hope, there’s a strategy to ensure that it does, it’s called a flight plan – the pilot cannot just ‘wing’ it. When a person wants to erect a residential or commercial structure, he or she hopes that the structure will be safe for use, but beyond hope – and in a sane society – the regulators (interestingly known as urban planning) will not allow that project to start without a strategy that ensures safety – it’s called a building plan. Dreams are great but planning is just as important.

The difference between a mob and a team is a strategy. A mob is defined by anyhowness but a team is defined by intentionality. This is why coaches are hired to come up with winning strategies. The coach of a famous football team is currently under fire because he has some of the best players at his disposal but his strategies are not producing desired results. If you don’t know the difference, someone will come and give you pseudo hope about one naira equaling one dollar and you will be there expecting ‘sontin hooge’ instead of interrogating him or her on the economic strategy for achieving such outcome. You better shine ya eye or else dem go come run you street again. Selah.

On Religion and Critical Thinking

Let me start this by sharing a quote from Galileo Galilei who stood trial and was almost killed by religious fanatics for asserting the “heresy” that the earth was not flat but spherical and it revolves around the sun: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

As far as I am concerned, the human brain is the greatest ‘app’ ever developed. The challenge that religion poses on this side of the Atlantic is that it’s antagonistic to critical thinking. The truth is that if God didn’t see the need for the brain, He wouldn’t have given us a thinking faculty. He’s intentional like that. That’s why He promises to answer what we ask (in prayer) and think (with our brains). The brand of religion I am referring to are puritan tenets; an overarching belief that either prayer or critical thinking should be sacrificed for the other. The reality is that we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

For example, God is not in the furniture business, so He only creates trees. First creation is on God but innovation or second creation is on us. God’s sovereignty should never be used as a lazy excuse to outsource our responsibilities. If you want tables, you won’t get it by prayers. You cannot just sit and hope that trees will become tables. At best, prayers will give you direction to find top quality wood like the cedars of Lebanon. Prayers will not fell the trees for you. The plywood industry is in business because it understands that what you need to convert trees to tables is a strategy. The problem with most religious folks is that they want to cover laziness with spirituality. They will pray for something to happen and even when the answer comes to the door, they will still continue praying that God should come down and open the door for them instead of smartening up to their own part of the bargain. That’s why you need to be like Rhoda, she knew when to stop praying and when to take decisive action. The key is to watch and pray; faith and work is the balance.

On Business Models

The same teacher that said (in a specific context), “this kind doesn’t go except by fasting and prayers” also said “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it?” In other words, why would anyone start a project without first having a model?

In 1997, Jeff Bezos was asked why he started Amazon. His reply in part was, “I came across this startling statistic that web usage was growing at twenty-three hundred percent a year. So I decided that I will try and find a business plan that made sense in the context of that growth.” Notice, the business model was perhaps more important to him than even his fantastic idea.

A business model is a set of definitive information that helps identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This is because what you cannot recognize, you cannot intentionally reproduce. A model cannot be proclaimed viable if it cannot reproduce after its kind. This is why we don’t have many trans-generational businesses around here; once the founder or pioneer leadership leaves the scene, that’s pretty much the beginning of the end. What you then see are successors who inherit wealth but not business models or proprietary systems.

I personally recommend that you read Lee Kuan Yew’s riveting book, From Third World to First: The Singapore Storybefore this year runs out. Since independence, it is a rather sad trend that successive leaders have shown to be worse than their predecessors. See why one leader can show up and transform a country with forward-thinking policies but another will show up with a medieval mindset and take it back to the stone age owing to the lack of a holistic playbook that is superior to any other agenda. Imagine the progressive decline from enviable heights when a leader once boasted, “Money is not our problem but how to spend it” to a time when we are now in egregious debt coupled with in-fighting over which tier of government gets a bigger slice of a massively shrunken pie. The lesson here is that resources without strategy will ultimately lead to poverty and in our case, it’s multidimensional poverty. So having faith is great but we need to also develop business models on a personal and corporate level.

On Tech and Digital Transformation

What is our exit strategy as it concerns oil? The pandemic has proven to be a two-edged sword: on the one hand, it caused quite some carnage to the fabric of society. On the other hand, it has accelerated and brought forward changes that would ordinarily belong to the far-flung future. By 2030, many countries and regions have committed to a targeted transition from fossil fuel to other forms of energy. In January, I wrote that Elon Musk is getting richer simply because he aligns with a futuristic world. Small surprise that Tesla got an order for a hundred thousand cars in a single day and Musk, already the richest man alive, is even poised to become the world’s first trillionaire. Predicting the future isn’t so much about determining specifics, rather it’s more about pre-empting outcomes. “You don’t plan for the future, you plan from the future” – Captain Blade. In other words, you envision an endgame, then you develop a strategy to achieve it.

Data is the new oil. In fact, there is a strong correlation between data and development. The devil is in the details; what you cannot measure, you cannot manage. This is why I am grateful to organizations like SBM Intelligence, Stears Business, Nairametrics, Business Day, BudgIT, Techpoint, Tech Cabal and the rest for crunching our numbers in a way that makes for better understanding and actionable intelligence. Do you know that while high unemployment and illiteracy rates may appear as mere statistical facts, those numbers signify an active security threat?

Do you know that on this same African continent, the Rwandan government has set a target to achieve digital literacy for all youths between ages 16 and 30 by the year 2024? Do you know that for a population of 34 million, Angola has a 2021 budget of $45bn ($1,323 per citizen)? Mzansi Model: “The Government of South Africa considers education its highest domestic priority and the single greatest long-term challenge facing the country.” This isn’t propaganda, they actually put their money where their mouth is: South Africa’s education budget alone for a population of 60 million dwarfs ours multiple times over. E shock you, abi?

According to Maya Angelou, there is a reason why caged birds sing. In a place where the digital rights of citizens can be summarily infringed upon without recourse to any extant law, how do you suppose that foreign direct investments will flood in? Investors are not hopeless romantics, they don’t like surprises – their business models are designed for profitability not patriotism. In a place where tech-savvy young people are an endangered species, the innovative futures of such people are effectively being sabotaged. How can you then compete globally as a collective? Talk is cheap, some actions and inactions are so loud that young people cannot hear fancy speeches.

On Governance and Politics

“We cannot sit back and hope that everything works out for the best. We cannot afford to be tired or frustrated or cynical” – Michelle Obama.

Democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a contact sport. It’s also not a game of majority as many of us would love to believe, rather it’s a game for the majority of those that actively participate. When you have good systems and leadership, your sufferhead prayer points will reduce drastically. Which is harder: taking four hours to cast your vote or complaining for four years? Have you signed up for your Permanent Voters’ Card or are you waiting for God to come down and bring about the change you desire? Whilst democracy doesn’t start and stop with elections, it’s a powerful platform for electorates to deliver a verdict on its political class. It’s your right to be partisan, do so with your full chest if you wish but what is unacceptable is apathy to the democratic process.

 

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It has been ten years since I published my last paperback book. In Hope Is Not A Strategy; Faith Is Not A Business Model, I pour out my soul unto the pages because of the urgency of a shift in our thinking. I am honoured to have the publishing pioneer and Founder of Genevieve Magazine, Betty Irabor pen a foreword for this book. Great people of faith who are business leaders in their own rights have also contributed to this work such as Dr Uchechukwu Nnaji – Founder/CEO Of OUCH Lifestyle Plus Ltd, Rufai Oseni – Chief Servant of Eureka Innovations, Wale Adetona – Marketing & Communications Professional, Princess Adeyinka Tekenah – Founder and CEO of Happy Coffee, Uvbi Balogun – Acting General Manager and Head of Programmes at Lasgidi 90.1 FM, Bridget Elesin – Author & John Maxwell Certified Life Coach. Limited copies now available at select book stores.

Now available in select bookshops and on my Selar Store - get your hands on my brand new book, Hope Is Not A Strategy; Faith Is Not A Business Model - Mfonobong Inyang is a creative genius who works with top individuals and institutions to achieve their media, tech and communication goals. As a consummate writer, he offers ghostwriting, copy-writing and book consultancy services. A master storyteller that brilliantly churns out premium content for brands on corporate communications, book projects, scripts and social media. A graduate of Economics – he speaks the English, Ibibio, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa languages. He appears to be a gentleman on the surface but the rumours are true - he get coconut head! Reach out to me let us work together on your content project(s) - [email protected]

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