The mindset for innovation
For Larry Keeley – co-founder of Doblin, director of Innovation at Deloitte and a strong presence in events from Singularity University – innovating in a converging environment is less about the creativity and more about adopting a new mindset and the right methods.September-November | 2018
The global economy increasingly depends on the convergence of different sectors – and the innovation that comes from this environment will only create gains for the whole society when inequality finally decreases. This is one of the messages from Larry Keeley, a consultant, business strategist and co-founder of Doblin, which was incorporated to the Innovation practice from the Consulting area of Deloitte. Keeley – who has become one of the main speakers in the greatest events from Singularity University, one of the most innovative technology and business-training experiences today – spoke to Mundo Corporativo during a relaxed lunch in his most recent visit to São Paulo, in March 2018, when he attended the first edition of the SingularityU Brasil Summit, sponsored by Deloitte.
What characterizes innovation in the current environment of convergence of sectors and markets, which we experience today?
Innovation has three fundamental guides nowadays. First, technology needs to create something magical. Then, this technology should create an experience for which people are grateful. Finally, a fair business model is fundamental. This is possible anywhere in the world. You can always find something that makes people excited. Turning a yearning into a business model is the key that can solve many problems, and this key depends on the convergence of sectors.
What are the main challenges to innovate in this scenario?
The challenges are many, but the main thing is the mindset. In the past, it was common to think that industries should work in a specific way, one that does not work anymore. Walmart, which used to be the world’s largest retailer, failed to see the revolution and innovation brought by Amazon. They did not think Amazon was the main course, just a side dish. Whereas Amazon understood that they had to deal with multiple industries and that is how they became what they are today. To get there, both they and other companies needed people who think in complex ways. And this is something that can be learned, it is not only a matter of creativity. Mindset is the key.
How does the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution impacts organizations’ innovation projects?
Technology is actually just a piece of that revolution and innovation. The hard part is thinking in an innovative way and understanding what these innovations make possible. Companies today create their new skills from something they already have. For example, I am currently working with neuroscience technologies that help Mayo Clinic, a 100-year-old company that cares for 20 million patients a year in hospitals. Thanks to the CEO’s innovation agenda, the clinic began looking for ways to reach 200 million patients by 2020 without building new hospitals – and then thought about each one of their nine business units. Today, they can monitor senior people for the same price than a cable TV subscription. They already monitored astronauts, navigators, military pilots and, from there, have developed sensors that allow you or your medical staff to do full-time, emergency-ready monitoring. In that way, they can tell whether your father took his pills at home or not, if he is eating properly. And with due permission, the patient can see all of this on the cell phone. This is just one of the clinic’s nine business units, which is already targeting 40 million patients per year in this activity alone. It is a perfect example of how the capacity for innovation can be linked to a service that solves a great modern anguish. This is a company engaged in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and they just grow every day among companies and people.
How can one measure the quality of an innovation and its longevity?
It is hard to say what is here to stay in a fluid world like ours, but it can be said that technology is not at the center of everything and that much of this answer may have to do with the community. With the right conditions, even the simplest people can participate in the economy. Egypt, for example, has a problem of inequality greater than São Paulo. Most Muslim families have no chances of social ascension. This creates general hopelessness. However, imagine that there are now many ways to reward some of these families for their community work. A family may decide to work on improving a local hospital or on fixing street holes to get credits in crypto currency, which, after a while, can be worth a car. And this car can be put into the sharing economy to create more revenue. Or to enroll one of their children in college. If there is a reward system that grows geometrically, the more services to the community, the more progress is made. Does this depend on technology itself? Not much. It really depends on the mindset. Innovation is the way of thinking differently. It is not simple to measure efficiency or quality in this case. Perhaps durability also depends on a huge change that we need to experience. We have spent many decades trying to learn to say no to people because resources were limited. Now, in order to innovate more and better, we must learn, with the same sophistication and scale, how to say yes, to include and create opportunities.
Innovation depends more on the leader of a company or on the construction of an innovation environment as a whole?
First of all, it is fundamental to understand that, this is, indeed, a question of leadership. Look at a case close to Brazil, namely Chile. There, the political leaders have decided to lower the cost of education for the majority of the population. Among other things, this will lower the perception of corruption in the near future, with a greater sense of ethics in general. In Brazil, this is a source of tension among innovators. But it is more than that. In Chile, there are five families that control a huge share of the commerce. And the members of these families have decided to be more aggressive regarding innovation. And there it is, companies shape themselves around how they think.
What do developing countries like Brazil need to do in order to innovate more and better?
Inequality is a very big problem that affects the capacity for innovation on all fronts. The inequality here is the sort of thing that has created revolutions elsewhere. Politicians have to deal with that. It is important to create opportunities. Developing countries were the victims of a big mistake in the 1970s, due to an exaggerated perception from the richer nations about their potential risks (when evaluating the situation of these countries). It was as if creating opportunities in these countries did not matter. Now it is a different time and these countries must demonstrate with statistics, algorithms, and much more, that it is possible to see more nuances (regarding local reality), and thus attract more investments. It is possible to have a more individualized perception of opportunities, the world may realize this soon enough. There is no longer use in looking at a whole country and saying that something is impossible to do – and this new perception should strengthen innovations in every corner of the world.
What is the distance between countries with the worst and the best education indexes when it comes to innovation practices?
There is a considerable distance, so there are some areas which we should focus innovations on, such as education and health. In Brazil, political will is still a challenge. Citizens are still ahead of politicians. Even so, there are positive trends in agriculture and in the financial sector. There are ways to teach how to deal with these topics in an innovative way. There is a big gap between the better educated and the others concerning innovation. For this second group, their goal does not have extremely high, but maybe to reach an average result. If that happens, there will already be complementary opportunities. In order to reduce this gap, it is important to recognize that innovation has methodology, logic and standards. The sooner the countries that are not doing so well stop thinking this is a matter of creativity, the better. It is a method. If they stop blaming each other for not doing better, their individual advance will happen faster. This can create funding for those doing it right and, ultimately, affect the pattern and pace of innovation. The challenges are surmountable, regardless of your position in the world. It has never been easier to start a business, share ideas, learn best practices, try something new, and seek for resources. Most of the excuses I hear have to do with the issue of corruption. I understand that, but there are families and individuals trying to make life better. It takes humility and excitement with change, offering prizes to innovators. We need an innovative mindset.