Efosa Ojomo: See the World Through New Lenses

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Efosa, it’s great to have you on the program, and let’s start. Maybe you could just tell me, how did you come to write a book about prosperity and poverty with Professor Christensen?

Yeah, thanks, Mark. It’s really good to be here. I think for me, this journey began, interestingly enough, about 19 years ago, I left Nigeria when I was a young boy, I came for college in the US and I had no intentions of ever going back and eight years, I’m in the US. I didn’t go back to Nigeria at all, until mistakenly, one day I picked up a book on economic development and poverty. I started reading and it was really intriguing, and at the end of the book, the author referenced to other books, and I went, I bought them, and I picked them up. And this was around 2008, and I was really excited about the stuff I was reading about. But it was also painful to know so many people in the world were struggling to make a living. And I thought to myself, I gotta do something about this. The best thing I could do at the time was start a nonprofit organization. So I started a nonprofit organization called Poverty Stops Here. Yeah, the idea was to raise funds, invest in wells, in communities, micro-loans, some education projects in Nigeria, which is my home country. So I did that, raised money, but after a few years, I realized, man, this is not really very sustainable, I had to keep asking people for money, the wells that break down, and I thought I needed to really figure out how countries go from poverty to prosperity. And that’s really how I found myself at Harvard Business School, really studying the role of innovation and business in economic development. I got the opportunity to take Professor Clay Christensen’s course, and that man has the ability to change the way people see the world. And that’s what happened in that course. After we finished the course, there was an opportunity to do a fellowship with him, doing research, and I was the lucky guy who got picked to do it. And in the process, he was like “hey, what do you think about us writing a book about how innovation and the theories you learn in the course can really impact economic development, prosperity, and poverty?” And so for me it was a dream come true. It was a dream I didn’t even know I had. So amazing. But it came true.

And you use a really important word here Efosa, theories. And there’s a great quote, which I’m going to play back to you, which is I think from Professor Christensen: he’s not interested in the opinions of his students. He’s interested in the opinions of his theories, and the theories that they study. What does he mean by that?

Yes. The course is designed based on this notion of theories, management and innovation theories. And the way he describes it is he says “look, every piece of data we have is about the past. Not only is it created by humans, but it’s really about the past, there’s no data about the future. But we live in a future oriented world. And so if you want to do well in a future oriented world, and there’s no data about it, the way you can best predict what’s going to happen is by using good theories. And so the course is really designed to help students understand the value of management theories, and how they can apply those to the circumstances they find themselves in when they graduate, so that they could make much better decisions. And so when you boil it down, you begin to see that every day, we all make decisions that are predicated on a set of beliefs. And you could really say, these beliefs are theories that we hold. So if I make an investment in this company, I believe it’s going to get me significant returns, if I develop a new product and sell to these customers, I believe the product is going to do this well… So those are all theories that we depend on when we make decisions. And that’s how the course is designed. So for us, it was about applying these theories to economic development, and not really our opinions, right? In the class, he’s like “leave your opinions at the door, read the theories and come in and explain this salient management issue through the lens of the theories. And I think that’s a very powerful way to design a course, but to also live your life”.

Yep. And on that subject Clay has written a lot, but one of the books, How Will You Measure Your Life is actually a compendium of management theories that helps you lead your life, which is a plug for that book, it’s a remarkable volume, it really is.

Yes, absolutely.

One of the theories or one of the lenses that, I guess, got you to dig wells is, you know, trying to answer the question how do you eliminate poverty, and the answer is that we build stuff, we give stuff to people, versus a very different question. And that theory, that question has achieved at best mediocre results over the last probably hundred years, or at least 70 years, versus a far more interesting or more productive question, which is, how do you create prosperity? So how is it that a question like that has such profound implications on what generates results?

Yes. And that’s brilliant. I think it’s very simple, it might even sound like semantics when you think about it, it’s like those are the two same things. Not really. The question I was asking, how can we alleviate poverty, how can we really help people alleviate poverty, led me to make the decisions that we made as an organization, even led me to call the organization Poverty Stops Here, you see?

Interesting name for an organization, right?

Right, exactly. Poverty stops here, like we’re going to stop poverty. Well, who defines what poverty is? It’s really a lot of the wealthiest people in the world, we are the ones who sort of define poverty and say “okay, you live on less than $2 a day, you’re in extreme poverty, if you live on less than maybe $5, that’s sort of just normal poverty, and so on. So first of all, what I learned in working with Professor Christensen, is the absence of poverty is not really the same as the presence of prosperity, especially when poverty is defined by many of us who are prosperous. 


The second thing is, when I focus on alleviating poverty, it leads me to invest in certain activities that are mediocre at best. I’ll give you an example with the wells. One of the things we did was we go into a village, there’s no water, we’d say “okay, let’s build a well.” Well Mark, I built five wells, right, four of which broke. But you see, after Well 2, I knew that Well 3 was most likely going to break because nothing in the way we built them and the way they were managed had changed. So we built Well 3, and that also broke. Now, if I were focusing on creating prosperity, I would have made very different decisions. But my focus then was on alleviating poverty. And so what I told myself was, well, maybe this well is not gonna break. But even if it does break, at least they would provide water for six months to a year. And in effect, I have alleviated poverty when you think about it. And so in a weird way, by focusing so much on this poverty problem, it actually creates an issue where you can’t actually solve the poverty problem. And it’s an interesting paradox that we uncovered as we were doing research for this book. Meanwhile, when you focus on prosperity, we focus on what prosperity looks like, you focus on giving people opportunities, giving people employment, where they can improve their lives and circumstances, become tax paying members of society, I mean, all the things that go with prosperity. You make vastly different decisions.

Got it. So I mean, the bridge there from that into what, in some of the case studies, is around the different types of innovation, right? Because innovation tends to be used in all sorts of ways by all sorts of people. But there’s a very clear distinction here between one type of innovation which keeps nations in poverty, if you like, and another type of innovation that maybe lifts nations out of poverty. Can you say a little bit about what that looks like?

Absolutely, yes. So the second chapter of the book is titled “Not all innovation is created equal.” And we did that because the innovation as you said, is now ubiquitous. It’s a buzzword that we all use. And so we described three types of innovation as it relates to economic development. The first type, which is critical for long term economic development is what we call market creating innovations. These are innovations that make products simple and affordable, so that many more people in society could have access to them. See, when this happens, as a result of the creation of a new market, we need so many more people to not just make the product, but sell the product, advertise the product, market the product, educate people on a product, distribute it, and service it, and so on, and so forth. And when we pull in so many people into the employment sector to support the creation of the market, those people also begin to pay taxes, the company that creates a new market pays taxes and you have this virtuous cycle. So an example is mobile phones in many poor countries so to speak, Africa as a continent, India, and so on. 20 years ago, if you told someone you were going to invest in mobile phones, like Mo Ibrahim did, he was laughed at, but he went in and created a market and now that market supports about 4 million jobs, provides upwards of 200 billion dollars in economic value, and billions of dollars in tax revenues. So that’s the first type which is critical for economic development, and also for wealth creation, more Ibrahims are billionaires today.


Second type is sustaining innovations. Those make good products better. And they’re important, and they’re critical, but they have less of an impact on economic development, especially in markets that are mature. So this is sort of going from an iPhone five to an iPhone six, it doesn’t have as robust of a development impact, but is also critical. And the third type are efficiency innovations, which to us are probably most common when you go to emerging economies. If you look at the resource extraction industry, those thrive in efficiency innovations, which essentially allow you to make good products cheaper. If you look at outsourcing, so I’m going to perform this operation and my business in a low wage country, or a lower wage region that has a different impact on the development of the region that loses the jobs. And so these three types of innovations are critical, but they have different impacts on the economy. And I think for us, when our focus was on prosperity, we realized the critical role that market creating innovation has in development and creating economic prosperity, versus the other two types which are important and critical, but we don’t get as excited about them. When we hear for instance, “this country just attracted a ton of manufacturing,” that’s good, but really, that’s just the first step even in getting your foot on the economic prosperity ladder.

Yep, yep. And I was struck by, you know, that it’s a great way of thinking about it, because a lot of mature public companies that annual reports are full of – we’re innovating, we’re innovating – but if you double click on it, so much of it is either sustaining or efficiency innovation because, as we’re going to get into it, market creating innovation, particularly a long way away in geographical markets, without necessarily the sort of the infrastructure, and/or without people necessarily, without the market existing, is scary stuff, right, as an investor or as an executive who’s targeted with short term profitability objectives. Doing this is not easy stuff.

No. You’re right Mark, it’s not easy at all. And one of the things we really tried to do in the book is explain that this process is not easy, it’s not supposed to be easy, but it is very possible, and we link it to entrepreneurs that many of us revere, have respect for. So Henry Ford, he had to create a market for inexpensive cars in America, and in doing that he lost some of his investors because he was creating custom cars and they loved it, sold it for high prices, but when he said I want to make a car for the average American, in America that wasn’t as wealthy as it is today, people said you’re crazy, this will never happen. But by virtue of creating that market, he had to do a lot of activities that are in the value chain of creating an automobile market, so he built steel mills, built railroads, freighters, gas stations… obviously we know of the revolutionizing the assembly line, he built glass factories, rubber factories, I mean, you name it, he did it. But once he created that market, the benefits that he reaped as an organization were just immense.


The Ford Motor Company is still around today, right. So I think there’s so much benefit in creating new markets for organizations, but they have to go through that first step of understanding there is a market that can be created, no matter of benefits they can reap.

Let’s get into this because there are a number of lenses, to use your language, that you can use in order to understand these markets. Maybe we can just pick on a couple of them. We’ve talked about sustaining versus market creating, but there’s one around consumption versus non consumption. And I always remember in the corporate world, you know, how do you analyze the market that doesn’t exist? So can we talk a little bit about consumption and non consumption? Because it’s a really important concept, of course.

Absolutely, yes. So consumption, non consumption. That’s one way that helped us think about how to write about the economy. When I read about the economy, people write “oh, this economy is growing at 7%, this country, the GDP per capita is this as a rising middle class”, and so on and so forth. That’s helpful to a point. A lot of those measures are targeted at what we call the consumption economy. And those are people who are consuming existing products and services that are available to them in an economy. In many emerging markets, this population is very small. If you look at the people with access to affordable healthcare in many emerging markets, population is not as vast as more prosperous countries. People that have access to leisure, enjoyment, consumer goods, I mean, you name it, that’s partly why it’s emerging.

Just as an interjection, I had the CEO of Novartis, which is a top five pharma company, he was on the show earlier. The statistics are striking. Novartis produces 90 billion doses of medicine a year. And so they got almost a billion customers. But there are 2 billion people who just do not have access to any healthcare at all, even the most basic one, so there’s a huge amount of work that they’re doing. That’s why I was so keen to get you on the program, because a lot of the work they’re doing is around targeting non consumption. I just wanted to put that in there as a nice example of what you’re talking about.

Exactly. One of the things we also wrote about was insurance. I mean, you look at Africa, for instance, it’s got maybe 15, 16, 17% of the world’s population, but maybe 2% of the insurance market. And a lot of that is in South Africa. So huge, huge, what we would call non consumption opportunities. But you see, non consumption in some ways, is not visible when you look at it through the existing market research tools that we have. If you look at how many people are consuming, when you look at what are they consuming, how can we improve the products for those who are consuming, when you look at disposable income, when you look at things like GDP per capita, many of those things are really not going to point to opportunity. They’re going to say “oh, that market is too small, there’s no opportunity there.” But it’s precisely because their market is small, that there is opportunity there because that points to market creation potential.[26.40] Now, with non-consumption, what you’re really looking at is struggle and workaround. When people are not consuming certain things, it’s usually not because they don’t want it or they don’t care. So the insurance example I gave, or the Novartis you gave. It’s not like people in many of these countries just love to fall sick and stay sick, and just love the fact that there’s no access to medication. Oh, that’s not it. It’s that they are non consumers of existing products. And if you look at how they live their lives, you will see the workarounds. They probably go and visit witch doctors. So they do all these things to compensate for the fact that there are no available products for them. Now that’s a huge signal for a company that there’s a market creation potential. That’s one of the first things you have to appreciate, is there is significant potential, but you will not get it if you don’t create the market. And so that’s sort of the next thing we address. Okay, there’s market creating potential, of course, I get it. Okay. But it’s hard. How do I do it? And I think that’s a much better question I hope more executives would ask, versus, you know, there’s no opportunity at all.

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. So in the book you talked about how non consumption is kind of competing with apathy, it’s either access or it could be just the workarounds. And bribery comes up in the book, that says a workaround is better than the existing solutions. That’s a signal, I guess, that there’s an untapped demand or latent demand. The question is, how do you go after it?

Yes, yes. And that’s the question. That’s often circumstance specific. So we tried to be less prescriptive in the book and say “oh, this is exactly what you gotta do.” But we at least say, “okay, these are the markers you have to look for, I mean, the barriers to consumption, typically a wealth access and affordability. And so the thing is just not available. I might be able to afford it, but it’s just not available in my neck of the woods. And then skill, sometimes there’s just a lot of skill necessary to consume a product. So if you think about insurance, as an example, many of these insurance programs, you know, the vast majority of people who don’t have access to insurance, and can’t read the insurance contracts and understand what’s my deductible premium. So that means I have to create a product that requires not as much skill to really understand it. Even I don’t understand a lot of my insurance products, my health insurance, and so on. When we understand these barriers, we can begin to say “okay, what do I need to do to create a product or service that can overcome these barriers? And I think the answer is very circumstance specific, right? If you’re in the healthcare space, or if you’re in the consumer goods space, the solutions will be different. And depending on what countries you are, and what barriers you’d have to overcome, it will also be different.

Yeah, and you talk specifically about local context. But the other thing that struck me on this proposal, as I mentioned earlier on, when we were talking before we came on air as it were, you know, as an anthropologist, I was just interested in the fact that (and there are a lot of data points), but the Aswani brothers who created this extraordinary business, Toleram noodles, they are not native Nigerians. The guy in the book, Giannini, who founded basically the precursor to Bank of America was not a native American. And I’m curious what do you, you know, you come from Nigeria, you’re educated in the US and you’re looking at the world through a lens, I suppose shaped by your experience at Harvard – what do you see, what kinds of people, or let me put it differently, what kind of skills, so you’re addressing the executive sitting in a corporation in a Western corporation, thinking about how do I create new markets and go after these? What kind of skills do they need in order to be able to understand the local context? Is there anything, having interviewed these entrepreneurs, that surprised you, that makes them different from the usual sort of, let’s say, the byproduct of Harvard for instance, of the education machine?

That’s a good one. So when I started working for Professor Christensen, one of the things he said was “look Efosa, I know you’re from Nigeria, but I want you to go back to Nigeria and go find the Mormon missionaries (he’s part of the Church of Latter-day Saints), find the Mormon missionaries and hang out with them. And that’s going to give you a different appreciation for your country. And what he meant by that was go into that country and experience life as closely as you can, as the average person does, because the Mormon missionaries don’t go in, and live in a nice high rise buildings. So that’s really what he was trying to convey. And I think the answer to that question that you asked Mark is, executives or managers who have the ability to go into a different context, appreciate the struggle of the average person and understand that, look, I have not met many people who just wake up and cannot wait to suffer. Like, I can’t wait to not have breakfast today, its just such fun. No. They’re not engaging, or having breakfast in that circumstance, or taking medication, because they can’t afford it. It’s huge struggle. So an executive that can appreciate that and say “okay, how can I tap into this struggle and leverage that to create a business model where I could provide a service for this person?” The people who can do that, the returns that they generate for themselves and those shareholders are really immense. I mean, just think about the Toleram guys, they’re selling a pack of noodles, and cost about 20 cents, to a bunch of Nigerians who didn’t know what noodles were 30 years ago, thought they were worms, and now they’re grossing a billion dollars a year, they run one of the largest logistics companies in the country, providing employment for about 50,000 people. They’ve got 13 manufacturing plants in a country that everybody says is corrupt, you can’t do business, they’re providing their electricity. So this is very possible, but you have to look at it through ‘the non-consumption is happening’, people are really struggling, and you can create a business model that targets it. Absolutely critical.

And what you described, if Warren Buffett was listening, that’s a moat that you’ve described, an enormous moat around that business, right? So it’s not just about noodles, it’s about infrastructure, is about manufacturing, is about shipping… Once you’ve got it in place, it’s very hard to breach that moat, because there’s a lot of work and resources tied up in the value chain that these guys have created and are now operating.

Now that, Mark, I don’t want to give the whole book away, but that is the key to the book, what you just described. When we looked at many countries, that is how they developed. It is this idea that once you create this market, all this moat you call this, this infrastructure, this stuff you build around it to support it now becomes the nation’s infrastructures. And so we had a chapter on infrastructure, we talked about the genesis of many infrastructure projects. In the US, private company sold bonds to build railroads and actual turnpikes and roads. When you look at the TelCo infrastructure, telecommunications infrastructure in many poor countries today, that those weren’t the governments building all that stuff. And so we connected to how that serves as a solid foundation for sustained economic development. Oh, and by the way, as an organization, as a cut, you make a ton of money, you do make a ton of profits, but you also engaging what we call nation building. And so at the core, we think the economic development equation is sort of backwards. Because there’s this notion that poor countries, emerging markets, they have to fix everything first, they got to fix the infrastructure, they gotta fix the corruption, the institutions, and governance and so on. But when we actually do the research, we find it’s a much more evolutionary process that happened in many of today’s rich countries, that was really led and guided by market creating innovators, who built the foundation for all this stuff, and then caused sort of this shift in dynamics between the government and the people, and the incentives for the governments to allow the markets keep working was a lot stronger. So our hope is that this book inspires a lot more investments in market creating innovation in many of these countries.

Yeah. The book I think starts with Professor Christensen talking about his early missionary work in South Korea, which back then was probably, I don’t know what the GDP was, but it certainly was far worse off than it is today. And then we have the book of at the arc of his career. And I’m curious, from your point of view, you left Nigeria promising never to go back again. I guess (and I don’t want to put words in your mouth) your eyes have been opened to the potential. What can we expect you, to be buying a one way ticket to, I can’t remember what the capital of Nigeria is, I was there the other day.


…Abuja, and doing something on the ground? And maybe it’s the flipping question. Let me ask you differently. If you were to do that, what would you have to take with you, and what would you have to leave behind? Sorry, I’m changing the question a little bit, but let’s deal with that.

Yes. So, the short answer to your question is yes, with a one way ticket and all that, yes. The longer answer is, what would that look like. So when I left, there was no intention of going back, which meant I would visit, but you know, on my vacation and come back to the US. My life was here, my investments would be here, my time, everything would be here. Now, I might decide to be physically here. But this book that I’ve written, intellectually, and hopefully from an impact standpoint, is really all about emerging markets, right, it’s focused on that. When I think about the work that I’m doing, and going around the world speaking, evangelizing, it’s focused on how do we get capital expertise, and this sort of way that market creating innovations can impact an economy. How do we get that to many of these markets. And I think medium to long term, I’m also thinking about how can I raise a fund that is very focused on market creating innovations in many of these countries. Because when you study enough of these market creating innovations, you identify a pattern. And so a lot of the things that Henry Ford did are similar to the things that the Toleram noodle guys did, similar to the things that Mo Ibrahim did. And a lot of the struggles they had at the beginning, in raising capital and convincing investors were very similar. And so I’ve sort of developed this pattern recognition and understand the ways that you create a new market. And so in healthcare, for instance, I could see myself going back and saying there’s a huge maternal mortality problem in many African countries. So instead of building a 300 bed hospital, that’s gonna provide cancer diagnostics, and malaria care, and all this, what if we focus on maternal mortality, you streamline your operations, you make it very affordable, and so maybe someone pays $2-3 a month, but you give them excellent care. And from there, you begin to build it out. It changes the way you think about these opportunities. And you begin to see a path from poverty to prosperity.

And the way you articulated that was great, Efosa, you articulated the ‘build it,’ which is the push, we’re pushing infrastructure, we’re pushing services to you hoping it’s going to be used, you know, we’ll build a well hoping that someone’s going to use it, versus pull, which is let’s make it available, so you’re making it accessible economically, or from a skill point of view, and then they will build and they will come. And that’s it, that’s one of the key distinctions that run through the whole book, of course.

Absolutely. It’s this notion of push versus pull, where, understandably, and I want to be clear about that, understandably, when we look at rich country, poor country, one of the most glaring, sort of obvious observations is, rich countries have much better infrastructure. The roads, for the most part work, the rail, airports, and so on. Poor countries, not so much. And so the idea is, let’s push this infrastructure, let’s push education and schools, let’s push roads, bridges, and so on, into these countries. The problem with that is, that’s not the way it happened in many of the prosperous countries. These things were pulled into the economies by the new markets that were created. And so what we find is, when we push many of these programs in, without the markets that can really sustain them, and make the last, what we find is, they become decrepit, they are often laden with a lot of corruption, and they begin to lose value. So a lot of schools in many poor countries today don’t really deliver the value that students need to improve their lives over the long term. But we keep building bunch of schools, right, and the wells that you build, a lot of them break down, because we’re pushing these things into these economies, without understanding the connection to the markets that are available in those economies.

Got it. So, Efosa, beginning to wrap this up now, I think you touched on this, but let me ask the question explicitly. There’s a theme throughout the book about outside perspectives, the fresh lenses. Having written the book, what is the lens now that you are using, that you didn’t use before? Or what are you seeing now that you didn’t see before?

I’ll be very blunt Mark. When I left Nigeria, and my time in America, the first 10-15 years, I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with many of the people in poor countries, especially the leaders. There’s something wrong with them, what’s going on there? As I’ve done research for this book, I found out that again, if you go back far enough, Europe had similar type leaders who were corrupt and not particularly nice to the citizens. The US, the same thing. And so I found that the sequence really, of development, is what we are missing. We believe, or I believed we had to fix everything in, in my case, Nigeria, and then innovation, and development, and economic prosperity will come. That’s not the right sequence. That’s not how it works. How it works is, when we create innovations, make things simple and affordable for people, those things create new markets. And those markets pull in the things that society needs to prosper. The governments can accelerate that process, or they can decelerate it. But they by themselves are not market creators, they are at best accelerants or decelerants. So understanding that, for me has changed fundamentally how I see opportunities in emerging markets. And it’s really given me hope, quite frankly.

Wonderful. Yeah, and it’s coming through in your voice, which is great, because there are lots of reasons to lose hope in this world. But fantastic. So I sent you through three questions. The first one, what have you changed your mind about recently? And I know you’ve answered that question just now. But did you come up with another answer when I sen that question through to you?

So I did. That’s sort of broad. I think, for me, I’m learning time and again, and this one more recently, because the book just came out a month and a half ago, is quite simple. Success is not linear. Now, I’ll be honest with you, Mark, when we got this book out, I thought we were going to be the next Michelle Obama. I mean, her book is everywhere. I mean, she sold more books than there are books on the market. But then, you know, I realized – well, Efosa, you are not Michelle Obama, so relax. And I think what that is teaching me is success, in this case, with the book and just the ideas in it, it’s often not linear. It’s evolutionary, and you work at it, it’s hard work. And it’s not going to look like I imagined in my mind. And for some reason, that really hit me, and it’s allowing me manage just some of the ups and downs that might come with something you put your heart and soul into, and how, man, it may not look like I expected.

I’m a great believer that most of the time, we overestimate what we can achieve in the short term, and underestimate what we can achieve in the long term. If your book lands and makes a difference with some of these concepts, that people in the development industry actually take out, or in the corporate world responsible for building out, finding new market opportunities, or new growth markets, because so much of the corporate world today is ex-growth – if either of those little, or both of those things land, I presume that will be success, right?

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And again, you gotta remember, we’ve only been at this a month, right? So, I think I’m also an impatient optimist. So I’m glad this lesson is coming now.

Absolutely. So, second question. Where do you go to get fresh perspectives to stay innovative and creative?

Yeah, this one for me, it might sound cliche, but talking to people. And not necessarily experts or people in a field, but really just talking and learning from people. This can be conversation with a colleague, my brother, but just that idea of never underestimating where the next idea is going to come from. I’ll give you an example, that the infrastructure chapter we wrote, came from a few conversations we had with just random people. And I had no idea, it wasn’t like a planned conversation where we want to talk about infrastructure. No, we were just catching up on what are you doing now, we’re writing the infrastructure chapter, here’s how we’re thinking about it, and boom – the insight on how we define infrastructure, what its purpose is, just came from this unpredictable random conversation. And so I’d say I never underestimate people’s abilities to really change my mind or give me new insights.

Yeah, well there’s a friend of mine who refers to it, you never leave serendipity to chance. And I guess what he’s saying there is that these things do come boom out of left field. But on the other hand, you’ve got to actually get on the field (I’m mixing my metaphors here), you’ve got to open yourself up to the opportunity, or the likelihood that some of these things could emerge from these conversations.

Yeah, absolutely, you do.

Good. And then finally, what’s been your most significant failure or low? And what did you learn from it, and how have you applied that learning, Efosa?

Maybe I could give you two and we’ll see if this works.

You’re being hard on yourself, aren’t you?

I am, I am. The first one is Poverty Stops Here. Because some might look at that as a success failure, so I’ll give a second one. Poverty Stops Here, I thought we were going to build this thing, it was going to be a big organization, end poverty and so on. But this year is actually going to be our last year of operations, we’re going to sunset the organization and close it out. Now, we’ve raised some money, we’ve done some good things. But I’ve learned a lot of the things I’ve talked about on this call, just looking at the world through a different lens, and how focusing on ending poverty is not quite the way. So I think for me, that’s one, and the second one which may or may not resonate with a lot of your listeners, it’s a little more personal. So a couple of years ago, I didn’t see this coming too much, but you know, I went through a divorce. And you know, as a young 35 year old guy, I’m thinking I’m going to be a dad by now. But instead I’m divorced. And I think what that has taught me is connected to my first answer, which was success is not linear. This isn’t something that I anticipated, and so some of your listeners might be going through hard times they haven’t anticipated, or haven’t expected, or didn’t even cause or plan directly, but the thing about it is – if we can deal with, overcome these things in ways that we learn from them, they make us better people, they make us see some of the flaws maybe we didn’t see in the ways we are, then I can guarantee that failure becomes something that, not so much we seek out, but it just helps us be better people. We see that it’s part of life, none of us is perfect, and it can really help us become better to ourselves and better to other people. So I’m beginning to appreciate failure a lot more, I don’t seek it out, but it doesn’t have the same effect it did on me maybe 10 years ago.

Lovely. Efosa, this has been great, I’ve been looking forward to this for some time. Tell me, where can people get in touch with you or follow you?

Absolutely. I’m available on Twitter, @EfosaOjomo is my Twitter handle, the Christensen Institute is www.christenseninstitute.org, and so that’s where we are as an organization, and www.efosaojomo.com is my website. So lots of ways to get in touch with us.

Super, we’ll put all that in the show notes. And thank you very much for your time, I think you’ve got a couple of minutes before your next meeting. But I really enjoyed the conversation, nice to meet you. And as I’d say it, it’s an optimistic book, even though I guess if I was a developer, thinking about all the processes that I’m responsible for, it’s probably a challenging book as well, right, it’s getting us to turn things on its head and look very differently at things. But it’s a book of optimism, which is important in these days.

Absolutely. I think it is definitely a book that gives me hope.

Wonderful. Well, thank you for your time and we will keep in touch.

Absolutely. Thanks, Mark.

Thanks. Have a great day. Bye.

You too. Bye.


So reads the title of a chapter in the book by Professor Clay Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon, The Prosperity Paradox.

The concept of looking at markets from different perspectives is at the heart of this optimistic yet practical book, in which the authors apply robust management theories to help leaders uncover and capture opportunities in developing markets.

Read the full article HERE.





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Mark Bidwell

Mark Bidwell

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