Coffee Break with Game Changers: An Innovation Explosion

On November 30th, I had the pleasure of participating in another Game Changers show. I was joined by Futurist Gerd Leonhard and SAP Innovation executive Timo Elliott. The show was expertly moderated by Bonnie D. Graham, starting with her positioning of the topic: “Impossible is not a fact. It is an opinion” (Muhammad Ali). A unique clustering of inventions in the century after the U.S. Civil War improved the American and European standard of living – human well-being – more than any period before or after, with advances in everything from food and energy to health and work. Can our current innovation explosion have a similar impact despite unintended consequences? 

We explored a topic that I had written about in a recent post on Revolution and the Innovation Wheel. The show format opens with quotes from each of us, followed by a round table discussion that is based on statements that we provide in advance. Below are the quotes and statements provided. The show is available on-demand to listen at your convenience.

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Reimagining the Future

The future is arriving faster than most people think.


When we look around us, we see a world in which digital is now woven into the fabric of our lives. Where convergence of paradigm shifts is now the new norm and the pace of change is accelerating exponentially. We are now living in a looking-glass world; where everything we think we know is being challenged, including our long-held notions of success and failure. At the same time it’s a world where we can imagine, create and enable like never before.

These paradigm shifts will require us to think deeply about the future, with a focus on improving the global standard of living, and an emphasis placed on right brain characteristics such as creativity, imagination and reasoning. They will have a profound effect as purpose, structure, value, scenarios, ethics and viability are challenged, re-examined and reimagined.

In this keynote presentation, I make the case that we are entering a very transformative period in history – one that could someday be viewed as the MOST transformative. In a world where change is constant and shifts occur instantly, we can no longer accurately predict the future, but instead must rehearse it. I invite you to rehearse along with me – enjoy this journey through the looking glass. Expand the window below to view via PowerPoint online.

Revolution and the Innovation wheel

In a brilliant journey through the economic history of the western world, author Robert J. Gordon looks at The Rise and Fall of American Growth. This recent book focuses on a revolutionary century that impacted the American standard of living more than any period before or after. Our standard of living is typically viewed as the ratio of total production of goods and services (real GDP) per member of the population. But this measure fails to truly capture enhancements to our well-being. Human well-being is influenced by advances in the areas of food, clothing, shelter, energy, transport, education, health, work, information, entertainment, and communications. The special century (1870 – 1970) that followed the Civil War was made possible by a unique clustering of what the author calls the great inventions. Clearly – as the visual I developed depicts – the great inventions of the second industrial revolution significantly improved our well-being:


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Techno-Optimist or Techno-Pessimist?


A recent book by Robert J. Gordon titled The Rise and Fall of American Growth shines a light on technological innovation and its past and future impact on growth. The premise of the book is that the innovations of the special century (1870 – 1970) cannot be replicated. As such, the author does not envision a return to growth for America (hence the title). The book is very well written, and I will touch on aspects of it in future posts. For this post, I’d like to gauge the reader’s level of optimism or pessimism.

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Balancing the Opposing Forces of Innovation

The unabated exponential progression of science and technology has driven a staggering pace of innovation. The building blocks are mostly there, allowing creative minds to combine them in ways that attack the world’s most difficult challenges. Additional forces have emerged to position the next two decades as a period that is purpose-focused and transformative. Innovation itself is no longer the sole purview of business, universities, government, and military, as our connected world provides an ideation and innovation engine never seen before. Peter Diamandis in his book on Abundance describes another phenomenon, namely the Techno-Philanthropist. Focused globally, these wealthy individuals are changing the traditional rules of philanthropy, using their wealth to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. In the above mentioned book, Mr. Diamandis focuses on an abundant world that drives a future that is better than people think. Let’s view this perspective as the first force driving our future.

If abundance is the first force, than a second force is the emerging concern that unintended consequences are lurking, and humanity itself is at risk. Futurist Gerd Leonhard explores these concerns in his newly released book titled Technology versus Humanity. The path forward represents a delicate balance between the socially constructive benefits of innovation, and the unintended consequences driven by technology that has no ethics, and an innovation engine that has no governance. Mr. Leonhard does a masterful job of describing the forces that could negatively affect our well-being. He views this topic through the lens of human happiness, and explores the role of technology in enhancing or detracting from it. As I contemplated the point of view advanced by each author, I developed a visual that captures these opposing forces and underscores the need for balance and ethics. An interesting note: you could place several of these items of well-being on either side of the visual. For example, increased longevity has a positive impact on our well-being – but it also has unintended consequences.


With regard to digital ethics, Gerd Leonhard proposes the creation of a Global Digital Ethics Council (GDEC), which in his words, would be tasked with defining the ground rules and universal values of such a dramatically different, fully digitized society. In doing so, Gerd envisions a push towards agreements on the limits and independent monitoring of both the scope and progress of AI, genome editing, and other exponential technologies. These digital ethics would be open enough to not impede progress or hamper innovation, yet strong enough to protect our humanness. The GDEC Gerd envisions would include well-informed and deep-thinking individuals from civil society, academia, government, business, and technology, as well as independent thinkers, writers, artists, and thought leaders.

This dialog must begin, as much is at risk. We must realize the socially constructive benefits of exponential technology, while mitigating the risk of unintended consequences. I hope this visual helps in some small way in positioning the opposing forces and underscoring the need for balance.  I recommend these books as a way to explore these opposing forces of innovation.


Innovation Killer Organization Chart

Heidi Schwende recently shared a picture on LinkedIn that perfectly captures the challenges facing large traditional companies. Exponential progression, the pace it is driving, and the capacity of companies native to digital to innovate put the traditional company at a severe disadvantage. I’ve spoken at length about inevitable structural change and the need for leaders to embrace it. Suffice to say, anyone that has spent time in traditional companies can resonate with this visual at some level. The simple organization chart that replaces it will enable us to see the future, rehearse it, and adapt to rapid shifts as they occur. Three simple words to embrace: see, rehearse, adapt.


Artificial Intelligence Intersects with Social Media

AI Intersects with Social Media

In his fifteenth post in the series, Marshall Kirkpatrick focuses on the intersection between artificial intelligence and social media. By way of reminder, Marshall launched a 30 day series that explores the intersection between AI and the various innovation components on my emerging futures visual.

As he has in each post, Marshall identifies the key subject matter experts that sit at the intersection of AI and the visual component in question. In the case of social media, the key influencers are: Marshall KirkpatrickTamara McCleary, and Amber Armstrong. Here is the foresight and related future scenarios identified at the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and social media (taken straight from Marshall’s post):

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