Academic consumption mentality has killed creativity.
We can’t be blamed as a nation for wanting to use computers we can’t manufacture. We shouldn’t be blamed for wanting to drive cars that we can’t make either. To want to fly in aircraft we can’t build can also be forgiven. After all, just about six countries in the world make the aircraft everyone uses.
I start to get angry when I realise that in spite of our vast arable land, we can’t grow enough as a country to feed ourselves. We have resorted to importing food to make up for the deficit. I’m even more inflamed when I remember that we import most of the clothing we use in this country to the point where some would rather buy used clothing before any locally produced but new ones.
The most groundbreaking constructions in the country are also largely built with foreign expertise – the likes of Julius Berger and Cappa & Alberto. What this translates to, going back to social studies, is that we cannot competently, and on our own, provide the basics of life – clothing, food, and shelter – for ourselves.
I saw a particular TED talk and my anger gave way to a comic disposition. The speaker was talking about the amount and distribution of published academic papers which informed new frontiers of thinking. It was interesting to note that Africa produced less than 1% of the total publications worldwide.
It isn’t that we don’t study in Africa or, more specifically, in Nigeria, but sometimes the problem is that we overstudy. I heard of the chairman of a multimillion-naira company complaining about his son’s insistence on staying in England after his master’s program to pursue a Ph.D. program, joking that he (the father) didn’t even have a university degree but is still able to finance the education and lifestyle of the kids in foreign currencies.
A master’s degree in our country today looks so ordinary. Certification after certification adorns people’s CV and when they eventually get the job, you wonder why they can’t bring value in spite of these certifications. There’s this crazy frenzy to simply pile up certifications and degrees on top of each other and herein lies the problem.
We get the certifications and degrees for the purpose of getting a job or getting promoted at work. These are noble intents and people have the power of choice, but this myopic view and focus on self is the reason why holders of these numerous degrees and certifications cannot think. Creativity seems to elude us and we can’t make progress despite the head knowledge that we have.
How then do we stop the insane drive for degree acquisition and begin to look for better use for these degrees and certifications beyond getting a job or a pay raise? There are long and short term solutions. The long term requires a critical rethink of our education system that falls beyond the scope of this discourse.
Short term, however, we can explore the following alternatives.
What would you do if you didn’t have a degree?
For some, a degree is almost like a chain that keeps them bound to a job. The salary, just like Nigeria’s crude revenue, is almost easy money that allows us to meet our financial obligations. Think for a moment if you didn’t have the degree that allows you to have that particular job, what else will you do? You will realise this opens you up to more possibilities. It increases your risk appetite and opens you up creatively. You are forced to improvise; necessity, they say, is the mother of invention.
Learn a skill
It is interesting that some of the professions we tend to rate low in our country are high-income earners outside the country. Plumbing, auto mechanics, carpentry, etc., have the appearance of low earning capacity simply because people who have the exposure and expertise to bring excellence and professionalism to the profession are only busy getting ‘certificated’. A simple way to look at which of the skills you could learn is to look at which artisans annoy the most. You could learn or hire his technical skills, add relationship skills and you are on your way to dominating that industry.
The difference between someone studying and acquiring skills for the purpose of a salary increase and for a commercial application is immense. The later brings in creativity. Think of skills as value exchange and the people you serve with the skill as multipliers. The more commercially you deploy your skills, the more multiplied the return value to you. Also, ensure the skills you are acquiring are what the market needs today.
Trade to your strengths and passion
Innovation and creativity come easier when you play in the area of your strengths. When learning a skill becomes tiring and laborious, it is a sign you will struggle to attain mastery. Find a market need for the skill that best amplifies your strengths. The most creative people play every day to their strengths than areas of little or no strength.
University Vice-Chancellors who seem to be at the height of their academic accomplishments do not get into that office on account of academic qualifications only. If you want to be rich, happy, and successful, your commercially traded skills meeting today’s marketing needs are likely to take you there faster than your degrees and certifications. We need creativity not degrees.
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