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The Upside of Down

The Upside of Down. How Chaos and Uncertainty Breed Opportunity in South Africa by Bruce Whitfield

Next time you go to a conference or hire a consultant to be told, ‘We live in a VUCA [Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous] world,’ leave the room. You are wasting your time.

In a world of fake news, deep-fakes, manipulated feeds of information and divisive social-media agendas, it’s easy to believe that our time is the most challenging in human history. It’s just not true.

It is a time of extraordinary opportunity. But only if you have the right mindset. Fear of the future breeds inaction and leads to strategic paralysis. We put off decisions until we can have certainty. We look for signals. We wait. And while we do that, the world moves on around us.

Problem-solvers thrive in chaotic and uncertain times because they act to change their future. Winners recognise that in a world of growing uncertainty, you need to resort to actions on things you can control.

And the only things over which you have absolute control are your attitude and your mindset. These, in turn, determine the actions you will take and that will define your future.

A robust mindset is the one common characteristic Bruce Whitfield has identified in two decades of interrogating how South Africa’s billionaires and start-up mavericks think differently. They are not naive Pollyannas. They don’t ignore risk or hope that problems will go away. They constantly measure, manage, consider and weigh up opportunities in a tumultuous sea of uncertainty and find ways around obstacles.

If, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller suggests, the stories we tell affect economic outcomes, then we need to tell different stories amidst the noise and haste of a rapidly evolving world.


About the author

Bruce is a multi-platform award-winning financial journalist. His work on radio, television and in print gives him unique access to South Africa’s biggest power brokers in business and money. Bruce has been named Financial Journalist of the Year three times in the past decade by independent judges in the annual Sanlam Awards and has received recognition for his work on the economy, companies and personal finance. Bruce has developed the ability to tell compelling stories about the political economy in a way that is creative and engaging. Bruce has worked in the highly competitive London radio market and has worked as a foreign correspondent for various global news organizations. He graduated top of his class with a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Rhodes University and has been practicing as a journalist for over two decades. One day he hopes to turn it into a career. Bruce presents The Money Show on 702 and CapeTalk, hosts Taking Stock, a weekly TV show on eNCA, and is a columnist and writer for the Sunday Times Business Times. Bruce has spent nearly 20 years interviewing CEO’s and studying the companies they have created. South Africa might seem to be an unlikely breeding ground for globally competitive companies, but it has produced a range of extraordinary success stories. Bruce has distilled through a range of exclusive one-on-one interviews with the founders of great South African companies precisely what it is that has made them formidable international players.

Bruce Whitfield introduces his book

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