Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Innovation Manifesto

In 2009 as we were working on our book on innovation (Rethinking Innovation), Don Simpson and I developed an innovation manifesto. If you are serious about leading innovation and building a diverse economy, you may want to look through this since this is what it will take:
  1. We will allow events to change us — Rather than fighting change, we will embrace change. We will be open to events and development and permit events to lead to change.
  2. We recognize that process is as important as outcome — When the outcome drives the process, we will end up using the same processes in the attempt to achieve different results. If we permit ourselves to first work the process to ensure alignment around what our priorities are rather than leap to a quick solution, we believe we are more likely to actually identify quality solutions.
  3. We will love experiments — We will embrace attempts, trials, experiments, explorations, errors. We are committed to building a culture of innovation in which disciplined experimentation is both practised and respected.
  4. We will capture accidents — We recognize that the "wrong" answer is the right answer to a different question.
  5. We recognize the critical need for leadership and accept that everyone has the potential for leadership
  In the global knowledge-based economy, leadership development is one of the highest forms of leverage for an individual, an organization, or a nation
   Leadership is first and foremost a way of thinking—a mindset
   Leadership attitudes and behaviours are increasingly expected of people even if they are not in a formal leadership position. Thus, we commit to being ready to be strong supporters of our leaders and to take a leadership role when it is appropriate.
  1. We give ourselves permission to ask stupid questions — We recognize that asking what look to be "stupid" questions often results in true creative and breakthrough innovations. We intend to be "stupid" more often.
  2. We must collaborate — The future is about networks of people collaborating to solve problems. While we cherish individual creativity, we will nourish collaboration as a fundamental feature of our innovative practices.
  3. We will work the metaphor — We recognize that every object has the power to be used in a different way, for a different purpose than that for which it is intended. We will use the metaphor properties of objects, ideas and things to explore other uses.
  4. We will make our own tools and make extensive use of the tools of others — If we need a new tool, we will create it. If we can use an existing tool in a different way, we will do so.
  5. We will make new words and expand the lexicon — If the current language is not strong enough to describe what it is we can see or do, we will create the words we need, so as to promote understanding.
  6. We will think with our minds and not rely on technology — While we recognize that technology can help, it is not a substitute for creative and imaginative use of the mind. We will expand our minds, and use our minds to create, imagine, solve, explore and decide.
  7. We will listen very very carefully — When we meet with others and explore with them, we will listen to the words, what is said, and what is not said. When we ask questions it will be to gain clarity and not just to criticize the ideas of others. We will seek to understand before we act.
  8. We will take field trips — We will engage in global expeditions (sometimes physical journeys and sometimes journeys of the mind. We will explore the world, and examine how others solve problems, make a difference, find out, and understand. By looking at other cultures, and other ways of working, we will know that we can improve our own.
  9. We will make mistakes faster — The more mistakes we make, the more we are on the edge, and closer to true innovation.
  10. We will break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, fold it and cherish it — We will look at all the angles and all the possible uses for an idea, object or skill.
  11. We will imitate — If we can find a good idea in one area, we will seek to imitate that idea in another.
  12. We will remember and learn — We will learn from the past, we will look to remember our successes and failures, and we will learn from them. We will learn from the successes and failures of others. We will remember those who helped us get there, wherever "there" is.
  13. We will jump fences and explore all edges — We will ignore boundaries between "disciplines" and "areas of work." We will beg, borrow, explore, and leave no stone unturned.
  14. We will enable — We will recognize that others can help, and we will enable others to be in a position to help, engage, and explore with us.
  15. We will laugh and find joy — We intend to have fun in our exploration of what is possible.

So if you are out there and want to lead innovation - biy into this way of thinking. Its not optional. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Paris, Climate Change and The Real Challenges

The Paris Climate Change Talks are  already beginning to sound problematic. Here’s why:

1.     We cannot stop climate change. The very idea that we know enough about a complex, eco-system process in an open system and that we can stop natural + man made processes is just silly. What we may be able to do is have some modest impact on the rate at which warming occurs in some parts of the world – but the impact of pledges made so far are very modest – less than 0.05C by 2100.  Warming will continue, but at a slower rate than most alarmist suggest, since the models they are using are running very hot (they predict more warming than either has occurred or is likely to occur).

2.     There is a big difference between what activist want and what Governments will do on the CO2 file. In particular, the idea that the CO2 targets will be legally binding is a non-starter for China, US and India.  What is likely to be binding is a process for looking at what is happening – e.g. Kyoto “Light”. Activists also want an absolute commitment to emissions cuts that will keep the planet from warming less than 2C by 2100, which requires much more substantial cuts than are on the table. Some activists, especially those from island states threatened by sea level rise, wants the target to be 1.5C, which requires a 60-70% cut in CO2 emissions by 2030-2040. Not going to happen.

3.     Misinformation rules. There is a lot of “guff” spoken about renewables. For the foreseeable future (e.g. until at least 2040) fossil fuels (especially natural gas) will dominate energy and transport systems.  We will go from 82% of energy from fossil sources now to 75% by 2040 and 70% in 2050. Renewables have a long way to go before they become viable as the dominant source of energy. Also, not all renewables are good. Burning wood kills people through indoor pollution (4.3 million people a year die from such pollution). There is also misinformation about where the science of climate change is – there is not universal agreement about the way in which climate works and not universal agreement on the extent to which human generated CO2 “causes” climate variability. Much yet to understand about the science.

4.     Money is key. One key issue, lingering from Copenhagen, is the size and distribution of the funds given by rich nations (like Canada) to those “experiencing the impact of climate change” or those “damaged by climate change”. This fund is expected to be $100 billion each year from 2020. Currently, despite pledges, it is unlikely to meet this target.  Until we work out what this fund is, how it will be replenished and what nations can use it for, there will be anger and conflict in Paris. Money is also key to transitioning economies from high fossil fuel use to medium fossil fuel use (which is what is being pledged). We are already seeing this as an issue in Alberta – the costs of both converting energy systems from coal to natural gas / renewables and the compensation for coal producers, coal fired power plant owners and coal communities is not trivial.

5.     Looking as if we are doing good and doing the right thing are two different things. Groupthink requires all players to “fit it” and use the rhetoric and make commitments which are aligned with the norms of the group. This is what Paris is about. This is not the same as doing the right thing. Doing the right thing would require us to stop focusing on CO2 emissions and $100 billion but pay more attention to rethinking energy systems completely, investing in innovation and getting back to science as science as opposed to science as advocacy.  Bill Gates and his co-tech investment partners, announced today, are more aligned with doing the right thing than with looking as if you are doing good. They plan to put considerable funds into clean energy innovation and emerging technologies – a better bet than just cutting emissions.

6.     Its not the planet we are trying to save, it’s ourselves. The planet will be fine. It has been around longer than us and will be around well after us – ask the Sharks and crocodiles, both of which have been around longer than our species. What really is at stake is our ability to adapt to changing conditions and our use of the planets scarce resources. The real problem is human behaviour, our current preoccupation with wealth and goods and our lifestyles. Cutting emissions sounds like someone else’s work. Changing eating and living behaviours is all of our work. The COP process (Paris is the 21st such meeting) is not addressing the issue of what it means to be a citizen and a contributing member of a sustainable society in this and the next century. This is the issue. CO2 is a side-show.

So, we have many days of verbal haranguing to go before Paris ends in a compromise which satisfies some, but not all and will likely leave the activists angry – this is what usually happens. Whether we get to the real issues – how do we want to live together on a planet as is with 10 billion others – is not being discussed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bah Humbug! Extreme Weather and Paris COP21

In Paris in a few days time you will start to hear a lot about extreme weather and climate change. The rhetoric will be explicit: humans are the cause of more and more hurricanes, droughts, floods and pestilence.

Yet the UN’s own climate assessment organization – the International Panel on Climate Change – concluded that this was not the case. In 2012 and again in 2014 special reports from the IPCC on this exact issue concluded that the real problem was economic development. That is, more and more people and businesses are located in areas known to be prone to flooding, cyclones, hurricanes and drought. While the damage from extreme weather events are real – ask any farmer or house owner impacted by one such event. The idea that we can blame all of mankind rather than city and town planners and the individuals themselves seems alluring.

Let us be clear. This is what the IPCC has said:

  • “Overall, the most robust global changes in climate extremes are seen in measures of daily temperature, including to some extent, heat waves. Precipitation extremes also appear to be increasing, but there is large spatial variability"
  • "There is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century”
  • “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin”
  • “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale”
  • “In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems”
  • “In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century due to lack of direct observations, geographical inconsistencies in the trends, and dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. Based on updated studies, AR4 conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated. However, it is likely that the frequency and intensity of drought has increased in the Mediterranean and West Africa and decreased in central North America and north-west Australia since 1950”.
  • “In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low

and so it goes on.

Human “caused” climate change is not responsible for the observable increased in claimed losses due to extreme weather events, as far as we currently understand.

And that’s the key. We currently understand a little but not enough about climate to be confident about the analysis and predictions for the future. Given that the climate models in use today are running very hot when compared to actual evidence (models are not evidence), then we should be more than cautious about our understanding of climate and predicting future climates to 2100.

So when we here the certainties in Paris, question them. When we hear that climate change will cause more and more damage, challenge the speakers on the basis of the evidence from the body established to determine whether or not man-made climate change (as opposed to natural systems) are the cause of such events – and point out that this body doesn't think so.