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        Now I see you - Now I don't        
Oops .... I think I may have got carried away a little - too much to say, obviously.  Don't delete! Instead, get a glass of water, a cup of tea or a glass of wine (I don't think anything stronger is required), and let your mind go for a little wander.

When have you last looked someone in the eyes, deeply, consciously, deliberately, silently? Try it out, right now!  How does it feel?  Comfortable?  Exposed? Scary? What is being communicated, without words?

How well can you describe the person sitting next to you?  Your partner, your child? I still remember the shock I felt when a photographer, telling about his work with the New York Police Department for missing children, pointed out that a large majority of parents are unable to accurately describe their missing children!  

Thinking about it I started to wonder how much it has to do with the fact that we do not often sit facing one another!  We sit in cars, next to each other; we sit in front of the television, next to each other; we sit in front of our computer screens, alone … So perhaps it is not surprising that we are no longer able to describe those around us. By the way, that was back in the early 2000s, before everyone had their face glued to the screen of their smart phone. Even in restaurants and at dinner tables it seems more and more common to converse remotely with ‘friends’ in the virtual space that with those in whose physical presence we are.  Human interaction is increasingly being replaced by interactions in the virtual space.  I was not sure whether to laugh or cry when I heard that people playing Pokemon Go fall into ponds and do all kinds of other truly stupid things because they are so focused on the little screen that they no longer notice the real world.

Yet what does it mean, not to be seen? How does it make you feel if you are talking to someone and they do not make eye contact (try it out!)?  Is it much different from being treated like a number rather than an individual? 

How does it feel to be seen! Performance artist Marina Abramović conducted a very interesting experiment at the Museum for Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 2010:  for 17 days, 8 to 10 hours every day, she sat on a chair, inviting visitors to sit opposite her and, silently, look in her eyes; as long or as short as they liked. While there was initial scepticism, her performance attracted a record 850,000 visitors, many of whom queued up for hours and hours, some repeatedly, to ‘be seen’.  For many it was a highly emotional experience and tears flowed freely. We are not used to being looked at so intently, and it is not for nothing that the eyes are often referred to as ‘the windows to our souls.  If you are intrigued you may want to watch a short documentary made by the BBC or watch Marina’s TED talk  from March 2015.

Dorothea Ernst, formerly Senior Director Sustainability at Philips Corporate Technologies and author of the remarkable book “Personal and Organisational Transformation Towards Sustainability: Walking a Twin-Path”  (as well as friend of the ILF) recently asked participants of the 100 odd participants of Green Economy Coalition Meeting to turn to one another and look into each others eyes, silently, for 2 minutes.  The energy released, and the revitalising effect of this brief episode  were quite remarkable. And yes, there were some who choose not to engage, and yes, this intervention required a lot of courage, trust, and credibility on Dorothea's part. 

To see and be seen.  Being aware, noticing things.  Are not ‘observation’ and ‘looking at the same thing as everyone else yet seeing something different’ key ingredients for successful innovation?  In order to see we need to look, to observe, to pay attention.  If we want to truly see what is there we also need to let go of pre-conceived ideas and assumptions, and become more aware of the whole range of cognitive biases we all fall prey to.  (You may want to read “The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational” that I found both enlightening and somewhat alarming.)  Whether we want to spot latent customer needs, the degree of engagement in our organisation, or the emotional state of our friends and family.

To see, and be seen.  Does it matter? I certainly believe so. Do you?

Sustainable Cities, Knowledge Maps, and other Inspiration

Having just talked about the importance of being seen and acknowledged as individual, and the importance of human relationships and interactions, I was about to start this section with some technology trends. That does not feel right. So let me start instead by introducing Miha Pogacnik, a violist virtuoso who uses his art to entertain, engage and awaken (management) audiences.  Not only are his music and workshops inspiring, his entire life and journey is an inspiration. I love his dedication to connecting cultures and people, inspiring leaders, and inspiring change.  Have a look at his website or some of this (admittedly promotional) video.  

As  I do also understand how important it is to keep up to speed with what’s happening at the technology front, you can click here to hear about the10 technologies that have been identified at the World Economic Forum as this years top emerging ones.


All these trends are really interesting, and bring home the fact that more and more knowledge is created everywhere.  This is why I am very excited about a project by Ioan Ciumasu who is currently in the process of a KickStarter campaign for Interactive Knowledge Maps, a platform that allow experts and citizens alike to navigate knowledge as we are navigating maps, zooming in and out.  As Ioan describes it, “The easy way to understand IKM and their navigation is by analogy with physical maps online, by clicking and zooming. The difference is that you don’t see countries and cities connected by rivers and roads, but knowledge domains and topics connected by questions and methods. And instead of info-bubbles about hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, you get opportunities such as jobs, projects, teams, education programs and tools. ”. You can read more in this short interview with him. 


The truly exciting thing for me remains not what can happen ‘within’ any particular industry or field of technology but rather what happens ‘across’ and ‘in-between’. HYVE Science Lab is behind one innovation that seems to weave developments from several of the emerging trends and technologies together: TAWNY. TAWNY is an Internet of Things (IoT) service which allows recognising human affective conditions such as emotion, stress, attention, mood etc. based on physiological data collected with wearables. Users can then allow connected devices to take their emotional states into consideration, allowing the devices to operate smarter and more human-centred. Thereby, TAWNY allows creating emotional intelligent home automation, workplace improvements, entertainment offerings, leisure activities, personal health applications, life organisation, smart cars & accident prevention or management of open public areas in order to improve quality of life. Machine learning algorithms will be used to identify and explore interrelations between physiological data and psychological states and eventually classify human emotional conditions.  Here a little more background.


What digitisation, probably the most influential trends, means for cities was the focus of a study by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Read about it in  ‘Innovation that Matters’.

Interestingly, the next Crowdsourcing Week Europe 2016, taking place in Brussels 21st to 25th November, will also take a look at cities. Or rather, at co-creation and the future of cities. To quote Crowdsourcing Week’s founder Epi Ludvik Nekaj “I believe co-creation and crowdsourcing will play a key role in the development of smart cities, with citizens contributing to everything from the future of transport and public service improvements – a subject I explored in a previous article. Meanwhile, socially responsible brands are already forging deeper connections with citizens and community groups through civic crowdfunding platforms like, which allow people to attract funding and other resources from organisations who want to help.”  Read more of Epi’s thoughts in his How co-creation is shaping the future of cities.

By the way, aforementioned Ioan Ciumasu is also author of book that connects cities and sustainability: Eco-Cities, Scenarios for Innovation and Sustainability.  Don’t you just love the connections and treasures that emerge from a highly diverse and curious network ?


Here something else that somehow connects to the above: two initiatives that with focus on the built environment in the widest sense and sustainability. Architect Damian Przybyła is behind both of them. The first is the Laka Competition  “Architecture that Reacts”, the second is the Laka Accelerator, both of which promote social change via the concept of responsive architecture, architecture that in some way reacts, responds to its environment. I had the opportunity to ask Damian a few questions about it, you can read the interview here.


The passion for sustainability is also the reason I am really excited to support the Ellen MCArthur Foundation in creating awareness for their Discontinuous Innovation Festival which will take 7th to 25th November this year. Thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses, disruptors and learners get together to explore the question ‘The economy is changing –what do I need to know experience and do? Not only is it free, it will also all happen online so that everyone, everywhere can join in. Interested?  Read up on their 2015 Roundup Report, you might even want to get actively involved yourself! The DIF team are looking for inspiring and innovative people be a part of the DIF 2016 lineup and host their own session on the Open Mic stage. Details of what is takes to host an Open Mic session and how to apply can be found here.

A second addition I am particularly pleased about is Second Nature - Symposium for Sustainable BioInnovation which takes place 6th & 7th November in Berlin, Germany, organised and run by Friend of the ILF Arndt Pechstein and his team.


On the note of bio-innovation I cannot resist mentioning that I have just received my copy of (Re-) Aligning with Nature by another wonderful Friend of the ILF, Denise DeLuca.  I can highly recommend it is your want to understand were we are, how we got there, where to go next, and what is all has to do with our relationship with nature.

Of course I should not forget to mention the next event of Innovators Anonymous, the Innovation Leadership Forum's Networking Group, particularly not as it is the 50th event, and as the topic is Sustainability and Biomimicry. As usual, we will be meeting up in London (venue to be confirmed0, and date and time are Thursday 22nd September, 9.30-16.30.  You may have seen the earlier mailout about Innovator Anonymous' Phoenix Moment.  This means it is the last 'proper' event of Innovators Anonymous, which in turn means we want to make it the best one ever (except of course for the wake, but that will be a different kind of event).  As we would like it to be the best ever, we are looking forward to your suggestions of sublime content to complement our own thinking on the event's topics.  I know you will have been waiting for the also customary question: anyone in London happy to host this event  (last chance ...)?  Even better if there is a link to our topics ;-).  Please do get in touch if you are interested in sharing or hosting, or both.

And this one has just recently landed in my inbox, and as it fits a theme I thought I include it here too: "7th International Conference on Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility" at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin which takes place 14th to 16h September 2016. The conference will focus on "Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility in an Age of Digitisation" by exploring how digitisation will change the way how companies do business, involve their stakeholders, and contribute to societies’ wellbeing.  If you cannot make it in person, read news, you can virtually participate via live stream. Please follow the registration link.

Other Events in September & October

A lot is happening in the innovation space around the globe!

Let’s start with the Southern Hemisphere

Chief Innovation Officers Summits take place in Shanghai 7th & 8th September, Sydney 14th & 15th September, 19th & 20th October in Hong Kong.  In Singapore you can attend WorkTech16 on the 19th September.

Even more events are happening in North America:

Boston: The Product Innovation Summit happens 21st & 22nd September; in October you have Technology Scouting Excellence 19th & 20th October, and the Open Innovation Summit & IP Strategy Innovation Summit (running in parallel) 26th & 27th.

A couple of things are also happening in San Francisco in October: 12th & 13 you have the Corporate Venturing Summit, and WorkTech16 West Coast takes place on the 25th.

Then there are also the 7th Process Driven Innovation Conference, taking place 13th to 15th September in PhiladelphiaThe Conference Board Innovation Seminars happening 27th & 28th October in New York City.

And finally, Europe
(and yes, I will continue to consider the UK to be part of Europe, what ever the referendum …):

In London you have Wellness16 happening 19th September, in October there are the Chief Innovation Officer Summit 19th & 20th, and on 24th & 25th October the Tech Expo as well as FinTech.  And finally, in Germany you have Design Chain @ K Conference in Düsseldorf. 

Please note the Drone Exhibition and Conference , originally planned for 14th & 15th October in Hamburg, has been postponed to March 2017.

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