As we enter 2020 and the start of a critical decade, we have been forced to take a long moment of reflection as a result of home confinement during the pandemic crisis. It is a profound time period where humanity has emerged and people all over the world are re-connecting with themselves, family, friends, and colleagues. Although technology has been instrumental in connecting us, there is a longing for and appreciation of human interactions. We are facing a great opportunity to re-think and develop a future that creates value for people and the planet. Will we embrace this challenge?
Leaders and teams are facing changing contexts while adapting to new technologies and diverse customer needs across cultures and geographies. The context for innovation is rapidly evolving in our global, multicultural, and digitally connected environment. We did not come from nor will we return to ‘a normal state’ after the crisis. This juncture in our lives has alerted us to the opportunities of choice. The UN and leading international organizations have emphasized the importance of meeting essential objectives to secure the well-being of people and the planet by 2030. Global collaboration, local market intelligence and cultural understanding matter more than ever. In creating and launching global initiatives, what does it take to lead human-centric innovation around the globe?
In shifting to a human-driven focus, inclusive leadership for a changing innovation landscape is increasingly needed across industries and geographies. Let’s explore the practices that could shape the coming year and decade:
Focus on long-term and human-centric vs. short-term and profit-centric
The short-term reactive mode of execution and sales needs to be balanced with a more proactive mode of ideation and strategic co-creation. Rather than focus on a concept that will catch the latest trend or make short-term sales, there is more power in ideas that solve critical problems and provide long-term value to global and local communities. Start with human value instead of cash value. Think of the positive impact for people and the environment. This includes human-centered development of technologies rather than the frenzied tech-driven race that has resulted in human exhaustion and resource depletion. We need to orchestrate a blended environment where technologies and interpersonal interactions empower the employee and customer experience.
Recognize interdependence in a global and digitally connected world
As many have realized, we are living within an interdependent world with all of its advantages and disadvantages. Yet the strengths outweigh the weaknesses where we can optimize the collective intelligence of a global network. We have the technology and capabilities to co-create and deliver global and local solutions. How can we create well-being for many rather than just a few? This requires an open mindset, empathy, inclusion, empowerment, and collaboration. Listening and learning from diverse perspectives nurtures an open and creative mind. Sharing knowledge and practices across functions and cultures enables and engages the organization. This opens the door to new solutions that deliver value and respond to the needs of developing, emerging, and mature economies.
Design holistic solutions for complex challenges
True value will be based on new research, design, and development of solutions that are aligned with the complex contexts of our current environment. There has been a tendency to create and market ‘one concept for all’ or universal solutions for the world. Future innovations will need to recognize and understand today’s complex environment – one that is global, multicultural, and digital. This is the new normal and it has been evolving for some time. Business leaders and researchers will need to start with a systemic view in order to understand and create holistic solutions that respond to the needs of a complex world.
Facilitate collaboration for a team and project-driven generation
As the past and current realities have demonstrated, the future is all about team and project collaboration for a new generation of culturally diverse leaders. With a global network and local eco systems, new skills are required for accelerating innovation around the world. Serving as innovation facilitators and orchestrators, project leaders will need to inspire and empower teams to initiate ideas and share knowledge, from concept to execution. Teams will need to design and facilitate online and on site collaboration throughout the innovation cycle in order to ensure project success.
Harness the collective wisdom within your global network
The coming year and decade will present us with tough challenges that require collective problem-solving from creative minds across cultures and disciplines. Online hackathons and research collaborations have already appeared. The opportunities lie in your ability to create and connect networks with depth and breadth. Avoid thinking that only a select club of business and thought leaders can solve the problems of the world. They can certainly provide inspiration and guidance, yet the valuable solutions will often ignite and develop within a team of collaborators who have knowledge and experience of their contexts. We need to move from an exclusive mindset to an inclusive mindset where ideas and solutions can be found anywhere in the world.
Are you ready to embark on this journey? My inner voice says YES to the great challenge of our decade. Let’s celebrate the human spirit and demonstrate that we can collaborate and innovate to solve critical problems and deliver valuable solutions. We can make this happen by optimizing the collective wisdom of a multicultural and networked world. After all, we need to win the greatest race of our life time: well-being for people and the planet by 2030.
Author: Dr. Karina R. Jensen, Founder & Executive Director, Global Minds Network