Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

We are painting in the dark – Series 4:

Based on the last three blogs in this ‘painting in the dark’ series, we have a dilemma. A dilemma afflicting multiple-tiers of East Africa’s social fabric; the school system, individuals and their values, and the family-unit. The three shape the value-systems and livelihood approaches of both the orthodox and quasi-modern East African family.

Painting in the dark Credit:
Painting in the dark

The messaging from the last three blogs in the series has been consistent:

  • The future is not certain and turbulence is becoming the norm
  • Something is broken
  • We do not always know that something is broken
  • Where knowledge of ‘brokenness’ exists, it is more often the case that we do not understand its causes
  • Where we understand the causes, we are resigned to letting matters take the natural course i.e. we have left matters to the Karma!
  • We are painting in the dark!

East Africa’s societal values and life ethos are built on a firm foundation of religion; both Christian religion and Islam, as well as African traditional beliefs. However, in religion comes the tendency to seek solace in the Lord, and to give up on life’s challenges. We carry our challenges in life wholesale, and put them before the Gods’ in our religions, whether it’s Christianity, Islam, or our African gods and goddesses. In our strong belief in the Omnipotent, comes the culture of living matters in the hands of the supernatural as well as to luck

We in East Africa, have at times surrendered easily, and not fought hard enough. We trust, and with good reason, in the supernatural powers providing answers to everything. My parents always reminded me that even as we seek solace in the Lord, we also had to run our part of the marathon. They always told me that God shall never run the whole journey for us and that we had to do our bit. Yet in most of East Africa, we continue to keep to the basics i.e. do what we have always done and that is about it. We aren’t asking the right questions and without asking the right questions, correct answers to the enduring uncertainty and turbulence shall continue to elude us

As I reviewed comments made by some of you friends that have read the ‘painting in the dark’ series’, It occurred to me that the Effectiveness Lab is correct in its view that ‘painting in the dark’ is so institutionalized within in the East Africa social fabric that it may take a generation change for us to witness a change in attitude and thinking. East Africans continue to look for answers to problems and avoid getting their hands dirty in the solution seeking process.

Questions the Effectiveness Lab has asked in this particular series has triggered interesting responses:

  • Expectation that the governments, like mine in Uganda, should provide the answer to life’s challenges. This, much as we all know that the government is many years away from having the financial muscle, let alone the political-ideology to deliver sustainable social-safety nets to its citizens. So why do we keep asking for the same, from a source that we know won’t deliver? In line with the growth mindset, I would have expected two responses to Uganda’s social-security provision failure:

i) Consider alternatives to secure self, and have very minimal expectations from a botched government social security framework. Securing self successfully shall call for ‘asking the right questions’ and ‘trying new things’; it is from such boldness and risk-taking affinity, that we shall secure ‘new’ and ‘safer’ ground, as well create a new impetus for ‘critical-thinking’ and a viable social security system.
ii) Ask why we abandoned the orthodox family/clan based social security system, and if there is good reason in going back to the old. Is there a case for considering a hybrid system that marries elements of the modern and orthodox frameworks?

  • Unquestioned belief that investment in real estate equals assured payback to the investor. We have observed at the Effectiveness Lab that many of the East African readers of this particular blog series, have alluded to the fact that real estate investment and its ‘enormous’ potential has been brought to their attention by the activities of friends that have invested in real estate. It is investment driven by what the ‘John’s’ are doing, and not always grounded in robust investment analysis
  • Many have read the blog series yet continue to believe that the answers to our sustainability challenge lie somewhere else and not with us. The Omnipotence paradigm

The transition challenge:

It is clear to us at the Effectiveness Lab that there is a transition-challenge that East Africans are grappling with, and that it is making the solution seeking process muddled. East-Africans have one leg in the orthodox system and another in the botched or yet to be perfected modern framework. This is true for all levels of social fabric – i.e. the school system, the individual values regime, and family. Left alone to work out what works for them, the average East-African citizen cannot make sense of the noise in the system.

Without the correct government policy framework/s, that will bring about new ways of teaching and learning, a bias towards STEM in the school system, and ultimately a ‘self-challenging’ culture, we are likely to continue ‘painting in the dark’

But we don’t have to wait for the government – do we?

The solution:

ACHIEVEMENT in life is mostly about two things: the ‘eye’ and ‘brain’. We at the Effectiveness Lab advise you all to ‘see’ and ‘process’ what you see.

If East-African’s, perceive with their eyes and construct a mental image of their immediate environment, and keep believing that they can change the status-quo (a growth mindset), they are bound to excel at what they do and change the fortunes of their society for good

Any individual, student or adult, with a ‘growth mindset’ shall outperform those who believe that their intelligence is fixed – let us refer to the latter as a fixed mindset.

The ‘growth mindset’ perceives different scenarios, tries out new things, in the process ‘growing’ their brains and intellectual ability – they simply will continue to ACHIEVE and highly at that

As you wait for the government to address its failings, please help yourself

My takeaway: Many readers and those that have talked to me on phone or face to face about the ‘painting in the dark’ blog series are expecting a list of solutions to the problems outlined in the ‘painting in the dark’ series. Sorry, the Effectiveness Lab, is not the solution-giving type, instead, it facilitates pathways to solutions.

Let us start the year 2016, practicing from the start, the growth mindset, and not expecting from others long-lists of solutions to our life’s challenges. We hope that the words ‘growth mindset’ shall appear in your 2016 resolutions list and lexicon

A very happy 2016 from the Effectiveness Lab!


4 responses to “We are painting in the dark – Series 4:”

  1. Bring it on!


  2. Apollo, your observation of we East Africans makes me smile. The stark reality is that our education systems did not nurture us with the relevant skills to keep pace with such rapid economic and political transformations that you allude to. Our curriculum did not integrate appropriate skills development relevant to the bigger picture. Therefore we can’t see the forest for the trees. We were taught to seek the tree and cut it down- the problem solving that you refer to as our default setting.

    In most of Africa, the foreign educational curricula imposed over 150 years ago are still being used today. Formal education in Africa came with the missionaries; the texts to be read and mastered were holy books; the lessons in school were moral in character. The primary reason for literacy was so that one could read and chant religious texts. An understanding or interpretation of the text was unnecessary and undesirable. Educational curricula in Africa have expanded, but the fundamentals remain the same.

    Even we learners who do go through schools, for the large part, do not develop the confidence in ourselves to take carefully, moderated and calculated risks- so our growth mind set is often stunted. We have not been equipped with critical thinking skills and therefore do not trust that we can learn on our own.

    The good news though is that, the future belongs to organizations that are dynamic and innovative and to individuals who continue to learn throughout their lives. They will want to learn because learning is relevant to their lives from their earliest years and makes them richer in every way. Watch this space! – we will ask the right questions and we will be bold and we will try over and over again (smile)


    1. HAAAAA Christine, I will watch that space indeed – I am constantly challenged by the dilemma you put so very well in your comment above – tell you what, we have quite a bit of work to do!

      I like your positive attitude


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


%d bloggers like this: