Do you know what people want more than anything? They want to be missed. They want to be missed the day they don’t show up. They want to be missed when they’re gone.

In another excellent episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour, Seth Godin dispenses some of his signature wisdom in discussing what makes a great leader. (David Foster Wallace had similar ideas.)

Pair with Godin on vulnerability, creative courage, and how to dance with the fear.

Freeing the economies of Africa from dependence on commodity exports remains a serious challenge. This present crop of African leaders emerging from democratic struggles have attempted to better manage their economies in a macroeconomic sense.

For example, in the recent global economic crisis, African economies grew positively and were less hit by the global financial crisis. During the crisis, the performance of macroeconomic fundamentals such as growth, inflation and unemployment were relatively satisfactory. Of course, most of the African economies do not have sophisticated financial systems, hence their partial insulation from the global crisis.

All recent forecasts show that economies of Africa are experiencing macroeconomic stability, reflecting moderate inflation and robust growth. Ethiopia has a growth rate of 7.2 per cent, Nigeria 6.5 per cent with single digit inflation, and South Africa about 5 per cent. Sub-Sahara Africa was projected to grow by about 5.2 per cent in 2013 and 5.8 per cent in 2014. SSA economies are now the destination for new investors, especially in infrastructure.

A few years ago, the World Bank published: Can Africa Claim the 21st Century? Several scholars and those interested in Africa’s development have argued that Africa would be the next continent to leapfrog into sustained development. The austerity in the economies of Europe has resulted in the search for new markets and Africa is the continent to explore and exploit. Even the Portuguese who destroyed the economies of their former colonies, have returned to Angola, Mozambique and others to invest and search for employment.

The new entrants from Asia, particularly China, have massive investments in Africa. Are they properly engaged by our leaders and policymakers? African leaders, policy-makers and technocrats must negotiate with these new investors bearing in mind that despite the macroeconomic stability and satisfactory growth, the African economy is suffering from very high rate of unemployment (25 percent),especially among the youths, extreme poverty and widening inequality – unprecedented in the last 20 years.

These ”new” investors are not charity organizations, but are interested in not just earning high returns for their investments but also in growing their austerity-stricken economies in Europe. Today’s African leaders must work aggressively towards economic emancipation so that 25 years from today, Africa would be a developed, modern and knowledge-based continent with poverty at its barest minimum.

By Akpan- H. Ekpo a Professor of Economics, is Director-General, West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management

Long-term, if you’re really trying to get the most out of people, you got to build people up not tear them down. And I think that’s something that I learned about not just myself but other people. That you’re really trying to get inside someone’s heart and soul and bind them to what it is you together are trying to accomplish.
—  On NPR’s TED Radio Hour, four-star general Stanley McChrystal considers the intricacies and essential humanity of great leadership. David Foster Wallace captured this best when he wrote“A leader’s real ‘authority’ is a power you voluntarily give him, and you grant him this authority not with resentment or resignation but happily.”
Trends Lab Weekly: Your Best Content Strategy is Thought Leadership

Trends Lab Weekly: Your Best Content Strategy is Thought Leadership

By Geoffrey Colon, Vice President, Social@Ogilvy / @djgeoffe /

So many people I have spoken to as of late complain about the term “thought leadership.” They are always asking, “what does it really mean and where does it get you?” B2B companies have known about this terminology for almost two decades and it has led to a lot of their content creation. In the B2B space, companies don’t make on-the-fly purchase decisions. You just can’t when you’re looking to overhaul your server systems at $4 million a pop. So you read up on what experts have to say on the subject. Maybe watch them give a speech or follow their Twitter feed to see what they are curating. These experts have been given names including influencers, champions, advocates, guru or even what I call myself, Subject Matter Expert or SME for short.

Why should your business be doing thought leadership? And who should do it? Well, to say it in short, everyone. Because thought leaders should be your entire organization. Not simply those at the top of the company. The best way for your company to transform is to crowdsource and collaborate as much as possible. Make everyone a part of the process in the new way of thinking about business. The other reason is thought leadership is your best content strategy. People want to feel like a company is larger than simply selling software or soda. They want to identify with it as a transformer of culture or the world at large. So here are five reasons on how to turn thought leadership into content. Have any ideas of your own? Feel free to join the conversation. After all, thought leadership means little if there isn’t a larger conversation around the subject.

1.     There is a lack of thought leadership in the world. Only 30% of companies use it now. That’s a small figure. And of those an even smaller percentage use social to amplify this thinking. So if you write it or video record it, amplify it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SlideShare, etc. People enjoy this thinking and want to share it.

The largest return that a company can generate comes from not just displaying expertise but having superior services that help your clients. Thought leadership is that inroad to a potential or current client saying, “This is exactly what we want. Thinkers who can also act on that thinking and execute it for us into a meaningful solution.” But they can’t get turned onto this thinking unless they actually see it. And where they see it is on your social channel.

People are drawn into thought leadership because it’s editorial made for sharing. Content comes in all sizes and shapes but if it’s a passive piece of content will it reverberate within your community? Thought leadership looks to get a rise out of people. If it doesn’t it’s not leadership. The reason being is thought leadership is innovative, ahead of the curve and sets a bold new path where no one has gone before. That meets resistance from systems that don’t want to bend to change. And with that resistance comes conversation around the topic. And from conversation, sharing. And from sharing, invitations extending to more people to discuss your POV on the issue, subject, category, product, initiative, etc.

Thought leadership comes in many shapes and sizes. Many think it’s still a boring white paper. But the best is now video sermons, Tweetchats, Q&As, infographics and more. The way you serve up your thought leadership is packaged as content. It’s not simply words on a paper.

You become the conversation piece. Thought leaders don’t simply publish then sit back and move onto the next piece of content creation. Nor do those who consume such content not have an opinion. Content should be engaging. Thought leadership has this built-in so it instigates people to react. It’s a modern day futbol match. There are always two sides. One side may react in many ways generating additional reactive content that keeps your brand or company as the focal centerpiece around the topic. And when people are talking about the topic that you generated within a social environment, you’re creating a level of engagement that equates to a possible advocate and an advocate that equates to a potential lead.

Geoffrey Colon is Vice President of Social@Ogilvy and editor of the Futurist Lab on Tumblr. He also tweets @djgeoffe

The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

—  Kent M. Keith, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council

Jessamyn Rodriguez started Hot Bread Kitchen out of her home kitchen to address workforce inequity in the food industry.

As the only food incubator in NYC that priorities minority applicants, Hot Bread Kitchen is fostering a new vision for our city’s diverse food culture.

In this month’s Thinking Ahead, Jessamyn shares more about the edifying impact food can have. Read it here

Join the conversation! Let us know on Twitter how your favorite food business reflects NYC’s diversity; tag your response with #ThinkingAheadNYC.

Entrepreneurs should start with a hypothesis and then go out and get feedback on their idea. “Don’t stop or get paralyzed when you get your first ‘no,’ but listen to the underlying reasons,” advises CEO of executive talent agency Well-Connected Leader Denise Brosseau (MBA ’93).

In this video, Brosseau also shares tips on how to become a thought leader:


At the opening of the first African Regional Think Tanks Summit in Irene, Pretoria earlier this week, renowned Cameroonian-born scholar Achille Mbembe described Africa as ‘the epicentre of global change.’

He added, however, that this is not fully acknowledged because of the way the continent is portrayed.

‘This [Africa] is where the most defining challenges of our times are being played out - sometimes with potentially global consequences and signification, and with increasing urgency,’ said Mbembe, a member of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) at the University of the Witwatersrand. Stereotypes continue to plague thinking about Africa.

'African problems are persistently seen as problems that are happening elsewhere, from a place that is lagging behind,' said Mbembe, who is known, among others, for his 2001 book On the Postcolony.

He proposes a ‘fundamental change of perspective,’ saying that researchers in Africa should not only focus on problem-solving, but also deliver critical analysis and interpretation that will be relevant to those most affected by policies. He describes this as, ‘Producing the kind of knowledge that gives a voice to the voiceless.’

So, who should produce this knowledge?

And to what extent can such knowledge be truly Africa-centred if donors from outside the continent fund so many African research institutions and think tanks?

On a continent rife with authoritarian regimes, the strengthening of think tanks - similar to the creation of independent media - is a high-stakes and highly political issue.


3 Ways to Prepare for a Financially Joyful Holiday Season 

by David Ning, personal finance blogger

Points at Your Fingertips: New Smartphone Feature, Use Points for Charges, Gives Eligible American Express® Card Members the Power to Use Membership Rewards® Points for Everyday Purchases

Click here to see how it works

Get the American Express mobile app

David Ning is an entrepreneur who built a business helping people achieve financial freedom through his website And is a regular contributor to the American Express Tumblr community. 

Leading By Thought Leadership

Yesterday I had the opportunity to hear Bill Taylor speak. Taylor is the founding editor of Fast Company and the author of Practically Radical. He said something that crystalized a great deal of thinking I have been doing about thought leadership. He said, along with a great many other smart things, the following:

The only sustainable leadership is thought leadership.

Thought leadership is generally construed as an element of marketing, and I believe that is a mistake. Instead, thought leadership should be approached as an aspect of innovation and culture, and not as a means to generate leads or to burnish brands.

As a consequence, most of what we read about thought leadership is wrong. While there are some who realize that thought leadership needs to be strategic ( see The Truth About Thought Leadership), most conflate thought leadership with content marketing. But the latter is a hollowed-out shell, one that puts an end result — publishing posts, articles, or reports — ahead of the work that must precede the writing.

We need to put the thinking back into thought leadership.

We need to put the thinking back into thought leadership.

Instead of marketing folks operating like editors at Buzzfeed, hoping for catchy headlines that lead to clicks, companies need to create initiatives that explore the far boundaries of their industries, to research and examine new methods, designs, and theories that will impact their products and services, and most importantly, the impact that those innovations will have on customers.

Rather than some slapdash, second rate journalism, companies need to invest in thinking about the near future, constructing hypotheses derived from a hybrid of research and directed innovation.

I think of this as an applied futurism. Not science fiction, but winnowing out possible futures and working through their implications. 

This deep thought leadership — when undertaken in this fashion, as opposed to the shallow content marketing sort of thought leadership — leads inexorably to new products, services, and new applications for existing ones, when the company culture is committed to following those leads.

And the leadership in the market, and the world at large,  comes when others — partners, customers, and competitors — are exposed to the actions that the company takes, with communication being one necessary aspect of that.

Taylor was a keynote at Dassault Systemes’ North American 3DEXPERIENCE FORUM this week, and I attended to learn more about the company and its products. But I came away with a different appreciation, perhaps framed by Taylor’s remarks, which were prescient. Because it revealed a company that I knew only from afar that is clearly involved in this sort of deep thought leadership.

Dassault Systemes has a long history, starting with 3D modeling for aerospace, and through many iterations, the company became a leader in product lifecycle management, and advanced 3D modeling of the world’s most complex designed objects, like jet aircraft, assembly lines, mining, and myriad other industries.

But the company has reimagined itself as an advocate for simulating and modeling the most complex systems imaginable, which are not objects like satellites, swiss watches, or drones, but living things. 

Dassault Systemes has been working for some time on the Living Heart project, a simulation of the human heart. The heart is completely modeled in 3D with Dassault’s many tools, including the fine-grained modeling of the physical properties of the muscles, valves, and electrical activation.

the Living Heart simulation

The company announced a major research agreement with the FDA:

Dassault Systèmes has signed a five-year collaborative research agreement with the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which will initially target the development of testing paradigms for the insertion, placement and performance of pacemaker leads and other cardiovascular devices used to treat heart disease.

Using a technology crowdsourcing model that protects the intellectual property of each member, yet enables all to share the outcome, the “Living Heart Project” is being developed closely with leading cardiologists, medical device companies and academic researchers who participate in the evaluation of the simulated heart model’s use in testing medical devices, improving clinical diagnosis and guiding pre-surgical planning.

The 30 contributing member organizations, which include more than 100 cardiovascular specialists from across research, industry and medicine, have access to the heart simulator for testing, enabling the acceleration of the program via crowdsourcing. The researchers have teamed with the Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC) with the goal of accelerating the approval process of medical devices while spurring innovation, improving patient reliability and reducing costs. The Project has already been used to validate the efficacy of a novel valve assist device prior to insertion in a real patient and understand the progression of heart disease.

This is thought leadership at the leading edge of innovation in medical research, and innovative in several ways. First, in the application of advanced simulation and 3D visualization technology in the biomedical arena, and in the crowdsourcing approach being used, to allow for the participants to share progress while retaining intellectual property rights to their contributions.

My friend Daniel Rasmus once wrote

Thought leadership should be an entry point to a relationship. Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.

Dassault Systemes’ Living Heart project has created a broad platform for creating relationships between the company and the many participants involved, like the FDA. And the possibilities that are indicated are certainly inspiring. 

Ask yourself if your approach to thought leadership gets out ahead of the near future like Living Heart does. There is no other sustainable leadership than this, and your company may have to be realigned around that powerful insight.


Presenting Innovation Class

By: Taking Off

Welcome to Innovation Class, our mentoring program at 35K feet! We’re using time up in the air to connect an innovator of today with a leader of tomorrow. Could YOU be next to sit beside a great mind and mentor? Click here for more details!

We are pleased to introduce Thinking Ahead, a digital consortium of thought leadership posts from city leaders and influencers across key sectors and neighborhoods to foster dialogue around the issues impacting our city.

What does the future of New York City hold? What issues are important to you? Let us know! We’ll share our first post on Thursday. In the meantime, read more here.

When the Time Comes to Innovate…Don’t Use EVALUATION Approaches for EXPLORATION Needs

Henry Ford once said, "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse."  His point was - if you want to create new ideas, you can’t solely rely on those conventional and predictable sources for inspiration and stimuli, such as your customers.

Unfortunately, when the time comes to innovate, many brands and companies have been so brainwashed by the ridiculous notion that "the target audience and core consumer know all," they forget all about Mr. Ford’s quote (and the lesson behind it) and they end up enlisting those (predictable) sources to not only evaluate new ideas, but to explore for them as well.

As you kick-off your innovation process, stop and remind yourself that exploration and evaluation are two completely separate innovation objectives that require different sources. 

When you are EXPLORING for new ideas, go beyond your target audience and core customers and adopt an open innovation/co-creation model that enables the input of lots of diverse perspectives. In other words, tap into unexpected, unconventional and unorthodox individuals from well beyond your target customer base. Their input will open up a universe of creativity, new ideas and potential for your brand or project. 

Once you’ve created the ideas, then go and enlist your target audience and core customers to help you EVALUATE them (if you really feel you need their “stamp of approval”).