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Brain Power

Betting on a Darkie. Lifting the corporate game. Mteto Nyati

If you want to take the system down, provide a better alternative at least. At heart I’m an engineer. I want to encourage people to fix things, not to raise false hopes.’ Mteto Nyati knew years ago as a schoolboy in Mthatha, working behind the counter at his mother’s trading store, that he wanted to fix and build things. After completing his studies in Mechanical Engineering at Natal University, he turned down a Rhodes scholarship and headed for Johannesburg to take up a position at Afrox. He was the only black engineer and the sole advice he received from his superiors was ‘don’t mess up’. He didn’t. Today Nyati is one of South Africa’s top CEOs, having steered Microsoft South Africa and MTN South Africa out of troubled times. He is currently guiding the transition of Altron from a family business, started at the height of apartheid, into a high-performing international IT company with a social conscience.

The Power of Habit. Why we do what we do in life and business. Charles Duhigg

In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

Imagine

Confronting change is incredibly hard, both organizationally and personally. People become resistant. They are afraid. Yet the pace of change in our world will never be slower than it is right now, says Beth Comstock, the former vice chair and head of marketing and innovation at GE.

Imagine It Forward is an inspiring, fresh, candid, and deeply personal audiobook about how to grapple with the challenges to change we face every day. It is a different kind of narrative, a big-picture audiobook that combines Comstock’s personal story in leading change with vital lessons on overcoming the inevitable roadblocks. One of the most successful women in business, Comstock shares her own transformation story from introverted publicist to GE’s first woman vice chair and her hard-won lessons in shifting GE, a 125-year-old American institution, toward a new digital future and a more innovative culture.

As the woman who initiated GE’s Ecomagination clean-energy and its (and NBC’s) digital transformations, Comstock challenged a global organization to not wait for perfection, but to seek out emerging trends, embrace smart risks, and test ideas boldly and often. She shows how each one of us can become a “change maker” by leading with imagination.

“Ideas are rarely the problem,” writes Comstock. “What holds all of us back, really – is fear. It’s the attachment to the old, to ‘What We Know.'”

As Comstock makes clear, transforming the mind-set and culture of a company is messy. There is no easy checklist. It is fraught with uncertainty, tension, and too often, failure. It calls for the courage to defy convention, go around corporate gatekeepers when necessary, and reinvent what is possible.

For all those looking to spearhead change in their companies and careers and reinvent “the way things are done”, Imagine It Forward masterfully points the way.

The Other Story. A fireside chat with African Achievers. Dr Judy Dlamini

The Other Story is a fireside chat with African Achievers, men and women of different ages, different backgrounds from different parts of the continent. I chose leaders/entrepreneurs that had achieved in their personal capacity but had also gone out of their way to lift others. At the outset I had been aware that their journeys through life, and especially their career paths, would be interesting and diverse, covering various entrepreneurial concerns in the fields of finance -Gloria Serobe, Zanele Mbeki, Information Technology -Ali Mufuruki, Kevin Lubega, agribusiness -Nhlanhla Dlamini, health -Dr Peter Matseke, education & mentorship -Sizwe Nxasana, Fred Swaniker & Mabutho Mthembu, retail -Dr Richard Maponya, retail, mining, property…-Babatunde Folawiyo, a journey from Robben Island to building a business empire- Sakumzi Macozoma, and more. But the unexpected outcome of the talks was that these wide-ranging stories have running through them a golden thread, spun from the values that these remarkable people hold dear, as well as things they regard as important, even non-negotiable; family influence in their journey, and the role of education. The fireside chats were informative, inspiring and a masterclass in mentorship.

The Other Story seeks to tell a story of what Africans are capable of – no matter where you find them in the world, no matter what age they are, no matter what gender they are, no matter what qualification they hold, no matter what sector of the economy they operate in. It’s not the complete story, because there are many Africans who do things that don’t make one proud as an African. However, we read about these all the time. My purpose is to tell the other story, a story that humanises us, that repairs our broken dignity, that empowers us and the generations that follow: a story that inspires us, our children and their children. Those are the stories that I want my grandchildren to read ‘over and over again, till they see themselves’ and other Africans in them.

The interviews were made possible by many daughters, sons, sisters and brothers that I’ve met over time. These gifts of life were designed by destiny to enrich my journey as I navigate the mystery called life. I thank my extended family for opening doors for me and trusting me with their relationship.

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