To Expose or Not To Expose
Exposure—the acquisition of new knowledge through study, emulation or experimentation—as it applies to an individual in any position whether as a ward or parent; employee or employer; citizen or leaders, carries within it the capacity for great good and great evil.
The dilemma of how much exposure a person should have before it becomes injurious to the family, company or society at large; or the influences to which one should expose oneself to, per time, in a bid to create or enhance value can create outcomes, often unintended.
The stakes can be very high for the owners of the process, the ‘exposers’—parents, employers and political leaders—in a sense that the ‘exposed’—wards, employees, and followers, if exposed to a certain degree may eventually take action that counteracts the initial purpose of exposing them in the first place.
In the workplace, for instance, human resource managers affirm that while a certain proportion of employees who received poor training leave their position in the first year, a sizeable chunk also leave based on being trained well enough to angle for greener pastures; companies willing to pay more for the skills acquired based on the training investments of the companies where they currently work. An ethical dilemma, therefore, subsists as to whether to train staff adequately despite the possibility of high staff attrition or not, given the grave economic implications on either side of the divide.
In Nollywood (Nigeria’s film industry), we have seen steady developments particularly in business structure with the attendant rise in a collaborative effort and commercial value. The single largest factor for this has been the improvement of human capital arising out of exposure.
The recent success of romantic comedy drama, The Wedding Party raking in about N450 million (as at the time of this writing) from cinema showings attest to how the level of exposure has significantly impacted Nigerian film.
From the casting of A-list actors (some foreign trained) to a BAFTA award winning cinematographer, Yinka Edward as well as the eclectic business collaboration (of Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife TV, Moses Babatope’s FilmOne Distribution, Inkblot Productions and Koga Studios) to form the Elfike Film Collective, The Wedding Party mined more value while staving off threats from piracy than any other indigenous movie in Nigerian History.
All of this coupled with the fact that more Nigerian movies are getting screened at International Film Festivals; a record seven of them at the last Toronto Film Festival, it is undoubted that continuing exposure to how the film business is run in more advanced climes have played a good part in this progress.
The Bad and the Ugly
But the good aside, and from a purely cultural view, exposure has shown its evil and ugly faces too. Taking the administration of terror into cognizance, Boko Haram, now acclaimed to be the world’s deadliest terror group didn’t get there by accident. Funding for this organization has been linked to the use of cryptocurrencies and the darknet.
The technological skills demonstrated by the group in the use of digital virtual currencies dislocate our traditional view of them from merely being a ragtag band of Kalashnikov-flaunting men fighting western education to a well-structured organization, up to speed with threat finance and exposed to ways of increasing opaqueness, transactional velocity and its overall efficiency with respect to funding its activities. Overseas, the trend has necessitated improvements in the area of surveillance and scrutiny but to this day, financing of the group has remained shroud in secrecy.
On 18 January 2017, the Director, Financial Policy and Regulation department, CBN, Mr. Kelvin Amugo announced the ban on usage of Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Onecoin, Monero, Ripples and similar products as legal tenders in Nigeria.
Whether this is a step effective enough remains dodgy given that there aren’t similar prohibitions in Chad, Cameroon, and Niger where Boko Haram also operate.
5 Shades of Exposures
Exposure helps to overcome cultural stereotypes in the areas of product development and market acceptance. The Iwakura Mission, a Japanese diplomatic voyage to the United Kingdom and the United States made by leading technocrats and researchers in the early 1870s is the most known and probably the most impactful voyage as regards the modernization of Japan. The mission had three mandates: to seek recognition for their reinstated Emperor Meiji; to renegotiate lopsided treaties between the West and Japan; and to make a detailed study of modern industrial, political, military and educational systems and structures in the United States and Europe.
Of these goals, the mission’s aim of revision of the lopsided treaties was not achieved. The attempts to negotiate new treaties under better conditions with the foreign governments led to widespread criticism of the mission that members had overstepped their mandate from the Japanese government. Members of the mission were nonetheless inspired by industrial modernization seen in America and Europe and the experience of the delegation provided them a strong basis to lead similar modernization upon their return. The mission emphasized the backwardness of Japan, and its need to learn from the West through scholar exchange arrangements. And by 1874, Yokohama, a port town established in1959 has become a hub for foreign influence. The Iwakura Mission’s work also laid the basis for the establishment of the Imperial College of Engineering (which later became a part of the University of Tokyo) and rehabilitation of the samurai (who had been disbanded in 1871) allowing them to make a shift from their tradition militia heritage into engineering roles as the society changed at the time.
Exposure equips for better output. And as competencies are developed as a result of it, exposure lowers the bar for investment to flow in. Today, if Nestle Nigeria required 10,000 metric tonnes of soya beans, for instance, it would most likely import from somewhere in South America, even though that volume of soya beans could be sourced and aggregated locally. In East Africa and for a similar tonnage of commodities like coffee or tea, Nestle would simply enter into forwarding contracts and have its requirements met at an agreed date. How? Through Commodities Exchanges in Ethiopia and Rwanda. It is not a surprise that both countries have developed very sophisticated commodities exchanges. Eleni Gabre-Madin founder and former CEO of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange was a World Bank economist who saw a gap in how her country responded to fluctuations in the agricultural commodities market as well as the inefficiencies of smallholder farming. She decided to pursue a PhD at Stanford specialising on commodity markets and this exposure paid off in what we know today as the most sophisticated commodities exchange in Africa. Following on Gabre-Madin’s heels was Rwanda’s East Africa Exchange run by Africa Exchange Holdings, a company co-founded by investors including the Nigerian Heirs Holdings and New York-based Berggruen Holdings, whose aim is to develop a network of commodity exchanges across Africa. Gabre-Madin too has such ambitions too. She plans to have set up 10 exchanges across Africa by 2020. And with her current achievements, her company, Eleni LLC has received seed capital of $5m from Morgan Stanley, the International Finance Corporation, and 8 Miles, Bob Geldof’s pan-African private equity fund.
Universal and Neutral Application
Exposure has a universality and neutrality of application whether for parents in raising children or in training business teams for a specific outcome. Though the 10,000-hour rule previously popularized by writer, Malcolm Gladwell has not proven to be completely correct, its import, however, is strengthened by how humans tend to copy or repeat what they learn from others or are exposed to, particularly when certain desirable outcome are sought.
Tiger Woods was exposed to playing golf at 18 months old; Serena Williams was introduced to tennis by her tennis-coach dad at only three; Bill Gates began programming at age 13, all of them raising the question as to how early should a child be exposed to the skills that could stand them out later in life when juxtaposed with Michael Jackson, who at 6 began his career but suffered many psychological problems into adulthood as a result of his rather early exposure to the music business.
In a 2002 interview with Gold Magazine, Jackson spoke of his problems alluding them to exposure. He said;
When I was little I grew up in an adult world. I grew up on stage. I grew up in nightclubs. When I was seven, eight years old I was in nightclubs. I saw striptease girls take off all their clothes. I saw fights break out. I saw people throw up on each other. I saw adults act like pigs. That’s why to this day I hate clubs. I don’t like going to clubs – I did that already, I’ve been there. That’s why I compensate now for what I didn’t do then. So when you come to my house, you’ll see I have rides, I have a movie theatre, I have animals. I love animals – elephants and giraffes and lions and tigers and bears, all kinds of snakes. I get to do all those wonderful things that I didn’t get to do when I was little because we didn’t have those things. We didn’t have Christmas. We didn’t have sleepovers. We didn’t have school, we had private school when we were touring. I didn’t go to a state school. We tried it for two weeks and it didn’t work. It was very difficult. It’s hard growing up a celebrity child. Very few make that transition from child star to adult star. It’s very difficult. I relate to Shirley Temple. I met her in San Francisco and I sat at her table and I cried so bad. She said, ‘What’s wrong Michael?’ I said, ‘I love you. I need to be around you more.’ She goes, ‘You’re one of us, aren’t you?’ and I said ‘Yes, I am.’ Somebody else said, ‘What do you mean?’ and she said, ‘Michael knows what I mean.’ And I know exactly what she meant – to have been there as a child star and to have graduated to have succeeded in making that transition to fame as an adult is very difficult. When you’re a child star people don’t want you to grow up. They want you to stay little forever. They don’t want you to work afterwards. It’s very hard.”
Michael’s story supports the notion that exposure is neither good nor bad by itself. It suffices to say that because of its neutrality in deciding what to expose a subject to while being underpinned by the desire to reach a certain goal or set of goals, whether at home or at the office, the inherent costs must be taken into account.
Fosters Idea Cross-Pollination
Exposure is the hotbed for a cross-pollination of ideas and can provide the environment for collaboration. Again, looking at Michael Jackson and his relationship with Quincy Jones that brought them awards in their respective careers for hits like Billie Jean, Beat It, We Are the World, Man in the Mirror and Rock with Me as well as The Wedding Party collaboration that produced the most successful film in Nigeria to date last year, one can safely arrive at the conclusion that exposure leading to a cross-pollination of ideas led to the successes of these collaborative efforts among other factors.
Urban planners use exposure too to cross-pollinate people of different income strata in order to combat the prevalence of neighbourhoods with concentrated poverty and residential segregation. Using mixed housing developments as a strategy for poverty alleviation, governments are able to influence the individual’s life outcomes through four mechanisms; social interaction between high income and low income residents, role-modelling by higher income residents, social control with high income residents acting as watchdogs as to how the neighbourhood is run and finally, the political clout of the neighbourhood as high-income residents will be able to attract better social amenities to the neighbourhood than if the residents were just low-income earners.
Improves Decision Making
Exposure improves the quality of decisions made. The underlying assumption is that with more information, we do better as human beings because our choices are expanded from which to make decisions. HR managers implementing a competency framework in a bid to improve the company’s performance by applying human resource more efficiently understand that incorporating learning and development through knowledge sharing, mentoring and paid training systems so that teams feel adequately equipped in decision making is vital.
But not all exposure enhances decision making which is why exposure must as a matter of relevance be underpinned by a goal or set of goals.
In my book, The Code: A Simple Story About Raising Great Women, I present exposure in a light that parents can use to help their daughters grow up confident and achieve all they dream to become. Engaging our children using this principle must, however, be underpinned by what we identify as their strengths and not by what our vocational preferences for them are. It should not surprise you that though tennis great Andre Agassi won several titles during his career—largely due to his early exposure to the game by his father Emmanuel, Agassi hated tennis even though the sport brought him prominence and wealth.
In the foregoing, exposure is neither right nor wrong. But it certainly always leaves us with many open-ended questions; one of which is: Do I or do I not expose?