The Future Of Innovation ... Re-connecting To Life

Dr Dorothea Seebode

The future of innovation...re-connecting to life

"Re-connecting to the fundamentals of life" is in my view the essence of the innovation we need to realize now to secure our future.

The world's vital innovation challenges can be directly derived from the WWF's powerful Living Planet Report 2006. From it we see a world populated by societies that are out of balance, as the 'developed nations' over-consume while less developed nations are not able to provide their people with sufficient health, education and employment. Already today on global average we live on nature's depth, consuming beyond the biocapacity of the ONE planet we share.

In our current globalized industrial socio-economic system, regional and global problems are highly interlinked. They can only be solved, once we deeply understand the causes for the current crises manage to coherently align on environmental, social and economic priorities, and agree on consistent action aiming to re-establish healthy symbiotic, closed loop eco-systems. Such an ambition is not a minor one. Yet realizing how immense this challenge is, and then making it explicit as THE globally shared innovation priority would not be a bad start.

How could that happen? Conversations facilitated by the innovation framework for sustainable development help to uncover how to facilitate a transition from the current economic paradigm to one more balanced.

The horizontal dimension represents the nature of "eco-system change", providing a space for "incremental" innovations within the existing industrial paradigm. These help to "flatten" the currently observable un-sustainability on the left side. Here notions like 'energy efficiency' play an important role. On the right side, radical or break-through innovation will facilitate the build-up of a new socio-economic system. Renewable energy plays an important role and a closed loop economy will require new financial mechanisms, business models and impact metrics.

The vertical dimension captures people's influence on the required change, recognizing that everyone can change her or his behaviour. The upper half represents the spaces in which people have direct influence on their lives (e.g. at home or in their professional lives), while the bottom part captures those spaces that can only be influenced indirectly (e.g. by a political vote or by joining an NGO).

For a multinational corporation optimized to deliver to the mass in the current industrial paradigm, one of the biggest challenges is to understand the "disruption border" between the existing and the emerging system and adjust its governance, management styles, business and innovation processes and product offers accordingly. It will be essential to uncover 'industrial paradigm myths' and sense 'emerging paradigm values'. We are currently locked in a prison of existing infrastructures and regulations that hinder new technologies to unfold their potential; emerging needs of 'Cultural Creatives' often stay un-served. Investment decisions should be made under new criteria and financial flows redirected. The future of innovation is about finding transition paths leading us from the mass-oriented industrial paradigm to the networked knowledge society, co-creating context relevant, closed-loop solutions respecting the limits of our planet.

Re-connecting to the fundamentals of life and learning from nature could inspire the disruptive innovation required to find a new path towards 'symbiotic prosperity'.

 

 

Article © 2009 Dr Dorothea Seebode. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Dr Dorothea Seebode

Dr Dorothea Seebode

affiliation:   Philips Research

position:  Senior Director Sustainability

country:  Germany

area of interest:  Innovation facilitating Sustainable Development

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