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Invent the future

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The world is unfair, so we say. The same people have opportunities and we are never part of those sharing the opportunities’ cake. They are connected, they are highly educated—we bring in such elements. Our lives are slipping from one problem to another—we have that belief at the back of our minds. To be honest, we use this language because we have resigned to our fate – we strongly fail to see abundant opportunities that are always in front of us. The paradox of it is that opportunities come to us dressed in overalls yet we anticipate to see them only when they are in suits. It won’t happen.

The future is for us to invent. If we are to move out of poverty, we have to know that it is possible. We only have to find means of doing that and there are many on the table. As the world is changing and competition for resources is also stiffening, with the rising power of technology disrupting our lives both personally and professionally, all we can see is that the future is no more predictable. Here is the fact; it is still possible to invent the future we want even in that predictable future. We are the ones to be part of making the changes in the future. Celebrated computer scientist Alan Kay does not mince words on that. He simply points out: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

The formula for making a difference is very simple. What the world wants are solutions to problems. People want to live better lives. Be the cool water that quenches that thirst. Do not waste time mourning over problems. Dedicate your time to finding solutions to the problems and that will make a difference. This is where innovation is key.

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When WhatsApp and Facebook aroused the appetite in people to have pictures, a problem did arise. Most mobile phones had cameras though with low resolution. At the very same time, the proliferation of mobile phones started killing photography business. People no longer needed hard copy pictures. It was easy for them to take pictures with phones and keep them electronically. Photographers saw that problem and resolved that quitting photography was not an option.

They thought outside the box. They knew you and I still needed high-quality pictures. Check at every graduation ceremony now. Walk around the Game Stores Complex in Lilongwe. Tour all hotels when workshops and conferences are in session. You will see how these people have reinvented the future. They use high-definition digital cameras to take pictures of you and transfer them to your phone. Here is the key aspect. The process is faster. You share with your peers and friends on WhatsApp and Facebook and Instagram immediately. The photographers waste no time going to studios only to find you gone. They do not have to spend on printing the pictures while there is no guarantee that you will buy them. They have even added another convenience factor to that. They even ask for your phone number so that they can send the pictures by WhatsApp at a lower fee. The very same WhatsApp which at first was killing their businesses has become a darling. They have invented the future and it is all good for them.

As long as you look at problems with the view to finding solutions then you have the joker to becoming a great success in life. We all complain that banks give us too little on our deposits and skim us with interest rates on loans. We blame banks for the many undisclosed fees on other services. Here is the story. Arkadi Kuhlmann faced that and decided to find a way out. No one could explain better the story than William Taylor and Polly Labarre in the book entitled ‘mavericks at work’.

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The story is that Kuhlmann was quick enough to see the opportunity in the future-forward power of the internet to champion the timeless virtues of thrift and financial security. He established ING Direct USA, an internet-based service bank which is a direct-to-the-consumer operation bank. Customers can also bank by mail or phone through 70 percent use of the web. The bank’s operations thrive on speed, simplicity and low overheads. ING Direct has no brick-and-mortar branches, no ATMs, no highly paid commercial bankers or smooth-talking financial advisers. It also charges no customer fees, requires no minimum deposits and avoids paper like the plague.

The bottom line is that the intentional simplicity of ING Direct’s products and business models keep costs extremely low. It is reported that, in some parts of the business, they are one-sixth the costs of conventional banks. As a result, the low costs have enabled the bank to guarantee higher interest rates on depositors with some basic savings products breaking the record to as good as four times the industry average. Check their mortgage rates; they are unbelievably low.

Taylor and Labarre better conclude the story: ”The bank’s animating spirit isn’t about low costs or fast growth. It’s about an agenda for reform.”

You are the next reformist to change the world and make it better. Worried about the future and lack of opportunities? Look no further, you are the one to invent the future the world is looking forward to. Kuhlmann provided a solution and you are next.

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