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This is a time of extraordinary opportunity – but only for those with the right mindset. This is the opinion of broadcaster and author Bruce Whitfield of The Upside of Down, who delivered the first presentation at the 2021 Pamro virtual conference held recently.

The Covid pandemic has led to the single biggest disruption globally since World War 2. More than the pandemic itself – tragic though it has been – the problem is the dislocation it has caused, which will have long-term consequences.

In SA business confidence is at yet another low. Despite the quagmire that SA finds itself in, Whitfield said it is important not to lose optimism. “For the past 25 years I have studied billionaires, and their one commonality is the sense of optimism they have about the future.”

Whitfield explained just how important it is to have a growth mindset in a deeply complex environment where we are often paralysed into inaction through fear and indecision. More than ever before, he said, facts matter and issues should not be judged at face value.

Visionary leaders, he said, are able to look through the short-term volatility and uncertainty towards long-term opportunities.

The challenge for most people is that they are wedded to their beliefs and biases and susceptible to what is obviously in front of them rather than what is really going on. Whitfield pointed out: “As Hans Rosling, one of the greatest futurists, said, ‘you can’t make decisions when your mind is clouded by fear.’ South Africans are perpetually negative,” Whitfield said.

Despite glacier progress, he insisted that progress is nonetheless being made, citing the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma, the amending of regulations to allow companies to self-generate power, the offloading of SAA and the splitting of Eskom, among others.

Quoting Intel founder Andy Grove, he said: “Bad companies are destroyed by a crisis, good companies will survive a crisis, but great companies are defined by a crisis.”

He added: “We need to focus on opportunities, and now is the perfect time to do that – but as Thomas Edison warned, ‘opportunity is missed by everyone because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work’.

For the past 22 years Pamro has provided a forum for research experts from across the continent and globally to come together to exchange knowledge and  learn from one another’s successes and failures, with the ultimate goal of harmonising research methodologies and encouraging excellence in the industry.

Other presentations on the first day of the 2021 virtual conference included talks by Borderless Access SA and Unilever SA on the evolution of brand humanisation, by Nielsen Media SA on how millennials and Gen Zs are posed to drive a crypto-revolution in Africa, by Ornico on the evolution of community media and by Saracen Media Kenya on the measurement of influencer return on investment. There was a panel discussion on why digital anthropologists are the missing link on data science teams.

Jennifer Daniel, executive director of Pamro and the vice-president of strategic partnerships at Telmar, says the high level of paper submissions this year has been commendable. “I would like to thank all the speakers for their excellent paper submissions,” she said.

The 2021 Pamro virtual conference was made possible by Borderless Access, DStv media sales, Nielsen, Telmar, Ornico, Plus 94 Research and Ipsos. To view day one of the conference, click here.

The big take-out:

The big take-out: Visionary leaders, Bruce Whitfield said, are able to look through the short-term volatility and uncertainty towards long-term opportunities.


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