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Time for transitions

The days around Christmas and New Year always invite to take a moment to reflect; to look back in order to appreciate and understand where we are right now, and to accept that no ‘would haves’ and ‘could haves’ will change the past; then look forward in order to envisage and start shaping our future - which lays in our hands.

Both BREXIT and America’s choice of its 45th president have made one thing clear to me: despite the gazillions of webpages and all the information on just about everything, fear and ignorance reign.  (What I am struggling with most is the underlying message both these results convey: a permission not to think and reflect but let aggression and prejudice run unfettered.)

We live in a world where newspapers share opinions rather than facts; where pupils memorise in order to pass exams so teachers and schools look good, rather than learn in order to understand, a world where we get 5.41 million hits in 0.49 second searching for ‘Pythagoras’. Interesting to observe that one of 10 key predictions UK-based NESTA makes for 2017 is that “2017 will see a future-focused rethink of mainstream education” (Read further on their website) I really hope so ! .  Also interesting in this context is a book by Peter Gray, “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life”.  You can read the thinking behind his book in this interview by Alyssa Figueroa. Perhaps not surprising that I found this article on Alternet, a news source that states on its website that “AlterNet is an award-winning news magazine and online community that creates original journalism and amplifies the best of hundreds of other independent media sources.”

Educating for the realities of the 21st century is more important than ever before. We need education that helps us understand social media and the internet; that helps us to discern which information sources are valid and what kind of sources can be trusted. We need to be aware of who has access to our data, and what happens with it.  We need to learn to ask the right questions - the answers can then be googled. Increasing evidence that a clever combination of psychology and big data (using information from facebook and other social media) have been used to influence both the BREXIT and US election results leaves me with a deep unsettling feeling of dread. You may want to read the translation of an article, originally published in German, that provides the backdrop to the manipulation I am referring to. You may also want to read about the person whose work and research made this possible: Dr Michael Kosinski. The dark side of innovation is raising its head again: we invent things with the best of intentions, yet in the wrong hands they can do more damage than good. In this instance, manipulate entire nations towards a particular election outcome. 

Enough of the moaning and groaning! Let me also share a few initiatives relevant to education that truly inspire me:

Finding ways to get children in rural India - girls in particular - to go to school is the purpose of Janwaar Castle Skate Park, an initiative set up by Friend of the ILF Ulrike Reinhard. Read an interview with her about the project and how it motivates children to go to school! To quote from the interview: “The first rule is—no school, no skateboarding. The schools have seen a marked improvement in enrolment and attendance ever since we started the Skate Park here. The second rule is—girls first! Every time a boy sees a girl waiting for her turn, he has to hand over his skateboard to her.”

Increasing awareness for the importance of creating deep respect for, and work towards living with our planet, Economics for the Anthropocene (E4A) is a graduate training and research partnership designed to improve how the social sciences and humanities connect to ecological and economic realities and challenges of the Anthropocene. Overarching goals are to articulate, teach and apply a new understanding of Human-Earth relationships grounded in and informed by the insights of contemporary science. If you wonder what ‘Anthropocene’ means (like I did), according to Wikipedia it is a proposed epoch dating from when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems.” Read an interview with Prof Peter Brown of Canada’s McGill University who is a driving force behind ‘Economics for the Anthropocene’ (E4A).

Also focusing on economics is a program run by the UK-based Schumacher College: Economics for Transition.  Here what it says on their website:  “Are you ready for economic change? Help create a system fit for the challenges of the 21st Century and become a leader in our new low-carbon, resilient and equitable economy. Learn from the cutting-edge thinkers, practitioners and activists who are making economic change a global reality.”  Click here to find out more.

Integrating 3BL thinking into MBAs.  Developed by Exeter University Business School in collaboration with the WWF, the One Planet MBA “… equips you to harness innovative business thinking and new business models that can deliver organisational growth whilst addressing global economic, social, environmental and technological challenges.”  Here too a link to their website.

Of course I also love DEUSTO’s MBI, Master of Business Innovation; indeed, we have administered things long enough, it is time to switch to innovating!  Find out more about this 12 months programme that invites you to Bilbao, San Sebastian, Madrid, Cambridge (UK) and Florence here

LAICS, Leadership and Innovation in Complex Systems, is another amazing master programme that sets out to prepare for the 21st century.  Here what it says on the website: “The LAICS programme focuses on how to create and lead innovation in complex systems, and centres on innovation and leadership from a 'real-world', practice-based and social skills perspective.” The programme was significantly influenced by the thinking of someone whom I deeply admire, Margaret Wheatley, building on her book “Leadership and the new science”.  Amazingly, just lats night an email from Margaret popped into my inbox, announcing a 5-day seminar on her latest book, "Who do we choose to be? Facing Reality | Claiming Leadership | Restoring Sanity" (June 2017, Berrett-Koehler); It will take place at the Schumacher College (UK) 22nd to 26th May 2017. I can recommend it to anyone concerned about the state of our planet, and how to engage with it. And did I mention I am part of Margaret’s latest programme, Warriors for the Human Spirit?

The time for transition has started.  This can fill you with either excitement, or dread.  Need I say I propose the former?  Something that captures how I feel right now is a short story by Franz Kafka, which I also read at the Wake for Innovators Anonymous, the networking group I set up and ran for 13 years and closed 1st December last year (you can find some reflections on the wake here):

The Departure

Franz Kafka

I ordered my horse to be brought from the stables. The servant did not understand me. I went to the stables myself, saddled my horse, and mounted. In the distance I heard the sound of a trumpet; I asked him what it meant. He knew nothing and had heard nothing. At the gate he stopped me and asked: "Where is the master going?" "I do not know," I said, "only away from here,  only away from here of here. Always away from here, this is the only way I can reach my goal." "So you know your goal?" he asked. "Yes," I replied, "I've just said. Away from of here—that is my goal.”  “ You have no food”, he said. “I don’t need any, said I, the journey is so long that I will die of starvation should I not get any on my way.  No food supply can save me.  It is really fortunate that this is a truly incredible journey.“


I know it is time (and not only for me).  We might not be able to see where to go yet.  We might not have the provisions for the journey. Yet leaving things how they are is not an option, a departure is necessary, and imminent.  We have to leave what we know, and what is comfortable, behind.

Get Involved

If you are involved in / know of a startup that has been founded in the last 5 years and a prototype exists, you can apply for the Startup Energy Transition Award which has the following five categories {

  • The Urban Energy Transition:
  • Cleantech against Climate Change:
  • Future Production and Manufacturing
  • Mobility Meets Energy Transition
  • Platforms and Communities 

You can find out more in this video, and on their website. Deadline for applications is end of January 2017 and the award ceremony will take place in Berlin around 20th March.


I cannot resist mentioning the the book Transformative Innovation by Graham Leicester again.  Rather than paraphrase I let me quote from the book’s back: “Innovation is a necessity in changing the world.  But what kind of innovation? Sustaining innovation fixes what’s failing. Disruptive innovation shakes things up. Only transformative innovation can deliver a fundamental shift towards new patterns of viability in tune with or aspirations for the future.” This book came out of the work of the International Futures Forum

A second book I’d like to put on your radar is “Visionary Leadership in a turbulent world - Thriving in the new VUCA context”, not least as I had the pleasure of contributing a chapter (need I say it is on innovating ?).  As it says in the introduction, “The We hope the following nine chapters make a meaningful contribution to your 21st century leadership development and add crucial skills for leaders living in turbulent and exciting times.”  Ready for pre-order now, anticipated to come out April  / May this year.


And some more books, from the ILF Wider Community which continues to be amazingly prolific!

“The Idea Generator” by Chris Thomason is very useful, easy to read with a bunch of tools you can quickly pick up and try out.  I particularly like the concept of ‘killer questions’, as Aristotle knew already: “Defining the problem is half the solution”.  Too often we spend a lot of energy answering questions that don’t matter…  Find out more on the website ( that goes with the book, and also has a ‘purchase’ link ;-).

The second, “Global Teams: How the best teams achieve high performance” has come to my attention to an old innovation friend of mine, Mehmood Khan, formerly Global Leader of Innovation Process at Unilever.  Having had a quick glance at it I can see its importance, and relevance in the context of innovation, which can never happen without successful teamwork. It’s been published by FT Publishing International November last year.

The third, “Consumer Product Innovation and Sustainable Design: The evolution and impacts of successful products" (Routledge, 2016)” by Robin Roy, follows the innovation and evolution of six consumer products - bicycles, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, electric lamps, television and mobile (cell) phones - from their original inventions to the present day. What I find quite intriguing is that he looks at how environmental concerns and legislation have influenced their design. For more information and how to buy a discounted copy see here or here.

Events Follow-up & A Special Deal

I have the pleasure of sharing links to the output of some past events!

1. DIF festival output can be found here:

2. You can check out daily recaps from the conference here.

Event Special Deal

We have secured a special deal for the ILF Wider Community: 50 free OPEN Passes ($350 value) for the DeveloperWeek 2017 Conference & Festival (Feb. 11-16, San Francisco), the world’s largest vendor-neutral developer conference & festival with 8,000 participants.

Register for an OPEN Pass here by Friday, December 30 11:59 PM PST using the promotional code: LINK & CODE

The 5th annual DeveloperWeek features speakers from Facebook, Google, IBM Watson, Docker, HP, Intel, Eventbrite, and 100+ more. New topics in 2017 cover VR & AR Dev, Artificial Intelligence Dev, Microservices, Mobile Dev, and dozens more.

What will your OPEN Pass get you into?

  • Dev Expo with 100+ exhibitors covering all the hottest developer technologies
  • 60+ OPEN Talks covering API design, JavaScript, Dev Management, and more
  • Access to the Robotics Dev Conference, Dev Management Conference, and the VR/AR Dev Conference
  • 40+ City-Wide Partner Events all week!
Innovation Events - 2017, A New Beginning
Ethnography Research for Innovation
23rd to 25th January
Innovation Evolution West
1st & 2nd February 2017
San Francisco
Industry of Things World USA 2017
20th & 21st February
San Diego

Internet of Manufacturing
6th & 7th March


Horizontal Innovation Conference
30th & 31st January 2017

Developer Week
15th to 16th February
San Francisco
Start-up Kooperation
21st & 22nd February

Design Thinkers Bootcamp
20th to 25th March


Start Up Energy Transition Award
Deadline: 31st January 2017
6th Annual Internal Communications and Situational Messaging Conference
15th & 16th February
Innovation Excellence
23rd & 24th February

Business Transformation & Operational Excellence World Summit
21st to 24th March
Copyright © 2017 Innovation Leadership Forum, All rights reserved.

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