Publié par Jacques Arnol-Stephan

Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them

Albert Einstein

My dear friend Marc Halévy loves telling us how lucky we are. We live in an era of changes that occurs only every 500 years at best, and thus we are in position to re-invent everything! Emmanuelle Duez, the young French serial entrepreneur, doesn’t say anything else when she talks about Y and Z generations, and the environment in which they are growing.

So, time is to innovation. Who could doubt it? The sole question is: which kind of innovation do we need?

--> Better use one’s intelligence on stupid matters rather than use one’s stupidity on intelligent matters…

Innovate, nor recycle

Recycling also is fashion, as is innovation. But if it is quite relevant when dealing with material resources that are becoming scarcer, it is far less relevant when dealing with business models, management models, and, more generally, our way of thinking. If we accept the idea that we have to take into account a brand-new situation, still “unpublished”, then recycling the old recipes is probably senseless. And actually, we are encountering still never encountered situations. Never in the history of humankind — at least as we are aware of — were we simultaneously to deal with a huge technological revolution (the internet and, more globally, IT which enables us to automate a kind of intelligence, and not only gestures), a demographic revolution (7, or even 10, billions of human beings, is quite a number, isn’t it?), an industrial revolution (the information economy, superseding the goods economy), a geostrategic revolution (all the great empires of the planet directly in contact to one another), a cultural revolution (surely, the models that structured our past are today widely questioned, be it for the best or for the worst), and probably others, the list might be very long.

But we are still too often recycling, as far as organization or management is concerned. For the organization of our societies, the old nationalist recipes are back at the front stage. For the organization of our businesses, we still try too often to just refresh some old ideas, like Taylor’s scientific management, only adapting them to other fields than production plants: lean management, 5S applied for services are probably lines of progress, but are they sufficient to address the very nature of the challenges we have to address?

A few challenges in the field of management, unordered

I don’t want here to go into a full detailed review of the management issues we are bound to address in the near future, but just build a reminder list, very Europe-centred at first:

  • the increasing level of initial-school training, and the wants that come together with it. In France, for instance, 11% of a generation graduated (Baccalauréat level) in 1960, 25% in 1980, 74% in 2013! Similar figures could be found all over Europe.
  • the deep questioning of the employee statute. According to a recent Intuit study, 40% of the US workforce will be made of freelancers in 2020! In France, the self-employed statute salutes a similar tendency. Isn’t it the same in the UK?
  • the deep questioning of the purpose of work itself. The career is over, could we say. Emmanuel Duez emphasizes in the previously quoted video the fact that young people arriving today on the labour market will experience, during their working life, about 13 different professions or metiers. Even if the precise number can be doubted, the trend is obvious, and has been for the last tens of years.
  • the questioning of the economic model relying upon property. I am not talking here of the “private property of production means”, that Karl Marx was so keen to contest. I am talking of the property of usual goods, which is common to capitalist or socialist economy. This is questioned by the rapid development of the sharing economy. Who would have thought of renting his clothes a few years ago?

This list isn’t exhaustive at all, but just seeks to underscore the depth of the tranformation. In other parts of the world, some other topics could be added. One of my clients, a Chinese young lady, Head of the Human Resources department in the Chinese subsidiary of a French company, told me recently: “we are part of the first generation that is allowed to choose one’s job, and allowed to choose to work!”.

Combining these points with the fact that, according for instance to Jacques Attali — and he isn’t the only one to say so — “the huge majority of the products that we shall buy in 10 years from here doesn’t yet exist today”, one could feel vertigo.

Create the conditions for innovation

So, how can we innovate? Where can we find the ideas that will enable us to grow in tomorrow’s world? Simply within the 7 (or 10) billions brains the earth fortunately holds today!

Because the most difficult task isn’t finding ideas. Imagination has very few limits. I am often struck, as my clients are themselves, by the quality of the bunch of ideas that a good brainstorming session can produce.

Actually, the most difficult task is to create, within an enterprise or a group, conditions which enable these ideas not to die before having been said, shared, heard, discussed and evaluated. And good creativity techniques, such as for instance De Bono’s Six Hats, used once in a while, aren’t enough for such a task. You must install, durably, a pacified environment, able to welcome new ideas.

Peace and benevolence, two keys for innovation

Contrary to a widely spread idea, struggle, war, do not stimulate innovation. On the contrary, when we feel a danger, we tend to rely on our usual schemes, our patterns. Can’t we consider that the sort of new tendency to isolationism, which is so often used by several parties in Europe, as an answer to the fright of globalization, illustrates this point? The number of innovations appearing during wartime must not mislead us: war only focuses investments, and thus gives the opportunity to develop innovations that have been invented before. The famous “Taxis de la Marne“ didn’t invent the car, nor did the Manhattan project discover the proprieties of atom.

In order to truly innovate, two kind of confidence, of trust, are required: confidence in the future, or else, no innovation is worth the effort; and confidence, trust in the other one, because true innovations always need sharing ideas…

There are means to enable your company to become such a “space of trust”. I have developed some of them in the articles published on this blog dealing with “liberated companies”. They are named shared values, attention, respect, win-win.

Thus, if you want innovation in your company, do not look for creative brains: they are probably already there. But focus on creating the “benevolent environment” that will allow them to share their new ideas, with confidence.

By the way, I wrote benevolence, didn’t I? And what if it were the true innovation? A benevolence relying on a sound confidence in the future, because contrary to the predictions of so many scaremongers, tomorrow would be a mayhem only if we were incapable of listening to the other’s ideas…

Photo : Marc Halévy and Jacques Arnol-Stephan during the two-yearly encounter of Réseau Entreprendre, an efficient economic network whose core values include explicitly benevolence

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