Leading minds on innovation: Revolutionize relationships

13:53, September 16, 2010      

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Facilitating the innovation needed to address global challenges will require a revolution in human relationships and how people and organizations relate to each other, according to remarks by an international group of leading thinkers on the subject of innovation, business strategy and ethics in the closing plenary of the fourth annual Meeting of the New Champions, or "Summer Davos," in Tianjin, China.

"We live in an era of massive institutional and societal transformation," said Richard T. Pascale, Associate Fellow at the Saïd Business School of Oxford University in the United Kingdom.

All the intractable problems the world faces are not technical. They require behavioral change, argued C. Otto Scharmer, senior lecturer in organization studies at the Sloan School of Management at MIT in the United States.

"The most important tectonic shift now is the transformation of the relations between business, civil society and government," Scharmer said.

Scharmer proposed that existing business schools be replaced by "tri-sector leadership schools" that focus on developing "social technology" and improving the quality of societal relations by boosting people's awareness of others and their shared understanding. This would "allow us to innovate at the scale of the whole system rather than in small pockets."

How people relate to each other is critically important for spurring the innovation necessary to tackle enormous challenges, such as how to embed sustainability in culture.

"In this hyper-connected world, behavior matters in a way that it never has," said Dov Seidman, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of LRN, the U.S.-based firm that helps companies foster ethical cultures. "We are now ethically and morally interdependent across the world."

People are looking to build sustainable relationships grounded in shared values, he said.

"Without these relationships, you won't get innovation," Seidman said.

For Lee Kai-Fu, chairman and chief executive officer of Innovations Works in China, the key to large-scale innovation is improving education. Most of the innovations in the world are "micro-innovations." China is generating many of such innovations, but is unlikely to spawn a major innovator such as Apple or Google. It may take 50-100 years for that to happen, Lee said.

"For China to get to that stage, it really needs to reinvent its education system," he said.

After the Tianjin Mayor Huang Xingguo congratulated participants on a successful meeting, Xia Deren, party secretary of the Dalian CPC Municipal Committee, invited them to his city for the fifth annual Meeting of the New Champions, which will take place on Sept. 12 to Sept. 14 in 2011. This will be the third time that the "Summer Davos" will be held in Dalian. In 2012, the meeting will return to Tianjin.

By Fon Mathuros, World Economic Forum


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