By Ajayi Joel
If you’re developing a product that solves a problem in your community, you are on a mission. For doing just that, you have an element of problem solving skill, and you are a professional. If you do that effectively and efficiently, I will call you a world-class professional.
Here is what I call world class professionals, and “WE” are not so many in Africa: if you’re studying engineering and you can relate with your environment to fix frictions, you are there. It’s not necessary for you to be in Silicon Valley to work. All that matters is that you can come up with a solution that solves your community problem using engineering. For that, let us consider a bold idea. Yes, let’s say building air conditioners with wood that doesn’t use electricity for a village. That’s what I’m talking about!
As you do that, it does show that you really understand engineering because you have used your knowledge of engineering and your immediate environment tools to solve a problem with engineering. This shows that if you go to the moon, you can still solve the same problem even if there are no woods on the moon. Yes, you can still build an air conditioner with the resources on the moon.
Note that I didn’t say “work on world class projects”.
Why we call folks world-class professionals outside Nigeria is because they used their knowledge to solve a problem in their area, and local community. That means when they come to Nigeria, they can still solve the same problem even if the resources available are different.
Why? They understand the problems they are solving. Understanding the problem you are solving is different from understanding what you are learning.
There are many graphic designers, software developers, marketers, and writers who only understand what they are learning, but do not understand the problem what they are learning solves. Those people can never be world-class professionals.
For example, if as a graphics designer, you do not understand that probably graphics designing solves the problem of perception, you cannot rise to that elite professional domain, called world-class professionals. Yes, you can blend colors together and collect payments and feel you’re doing fine. But if you travel to a war-ravaged community, and they say make a design for the new president that will help him win election, you cannot just mix colors just like every normal graphic designer. If you do not understand that graphics designing solves the problem of perception, you will just blend colors and fail even with good graphics!
This reasoning applies in other fields and domains. As an architect, can you build smart houses that will reduce electricity needs in homes? Those houses will be affordable for pensioners, will use space effectively, and will be eco-friendly. Or are you the type that puts typical instruction and design. If the latter is your mindset, you cannot be a world-class professional.
That is why in my posts, I challenged people to learn a skill to solve a problem. That is one way to fix many frictions in Africa. Simply, we need world class professionals in different fields for Africa to move forward!
To become a world-class professional, it does not mean you have to travel to U.S. or France or China. To become one, you just have to solve problems in your local community smartly in ways that improve the utilization of the factors of production. That means you bring innovation, reducing costs even when improving efficiency – that is disruption. You can be in Osogbo or Kano or Aba, and still be a world-class professional if you elegantly fix a local friction. World-class professional does not mean you are working or solving American or French problems; world-class problems are agnostic of locations. Simply, you are solving problems anywhere with great quality.
- Terminology is not arbitrary. Use the words that already have definitions properly. A dictionary or other references should be used. A professional whose skills equivalent to the top 3-5% of the professional population. Basing it on solving local problems is misleading especially if the problem does not meet the qualified difficulty or complexity.
- Good move connecting the Chief Critic that makes everyone better here. I do think it is a mindset. Perhaps, it has to be outside my home, city or village to be world-class. That is what Joel is pushing there, from my understanding. I think there is a balance here. If someone comes to my village and solves the problem of malaria, I will be very happy: he is an eminent world-class profession even if they have none in Western Europe and US. The classification of the top 3-5% may not really matter to me. I am not sure Microsoft would have hired Mark Zuckerberg since he was not even eminent in his computer class in Harvard. Yet, to his schoolmates, he was a legend – connecting them. What Ajayi is saying makes sense: you can be a top 3% fixing problems in a different domain but in another place, they can have their own top 3%. Interestingly, you cannot be a top 3-5% if you have not solved a local problem. In context, they do connect even though dictionary meaning may deviate. Every global World-Class Professional is also a local world-class professional because that person has done something that validated him or her in school, work, community, etc.
- I think that is what he meant. But, that is not what he wrote. The writing should be clear and unambiguous.