Innovation for Transformation

By Davie Philip – Published in Positive Life Spring Issue 2016.

“In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

Innovation is a buzzword that is overused and increasingly misused. If we are to adapt to the challenges we face today we have to nurture a culture of innovation that is about more than developing a new app or just staying ahead of the competition. To have real impact in addressing the environmental, social or economic vulnerabilities confronting us, we need an approach to innovation that is collaborative, holistic, and has the potential for transformation.

Over the next thirty years, as we make a rapid transition to a low carbon society, we are likely to see more change and disturbance than at any other period in recorded human history. As the business educator Peter Drucker stressed: “the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” So in many ways it is our thinking and the way we learn as well as the environments, practices and processes that foster cooperation and creativity, that we have to innovate if we are to be resilient with the capacity to adapt to change.

System change and innovation at the scale required needs a mindset change. As George Bernard Shaw said: “progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Recently Pope Francis has called for a “global ecological conversion”, emphasising that it is not enough for us to go through the motions of change – we need a cultural overhaul and a spiritual revolution. Dr. Otto Scharmer, a senior lecturer at MIT, believes that we need a monumental shift of consciousness, a transition from an out dated “ego-system” way of thinking, focused on self interest, to an “eco-system” awareness that focuses on the wellbeing of the whole.

There is incredible untapped energy in our communities waiting to be harnessed. I live in Cloughjordan ecovillage, a sustainability project that is an emerging example of what Scharmer calls, “a living ecosystem of innovation”. With Cultivate I’m based in WeCreate, the ecovillage’s green enterprise centre, which is part of a growing movement of innovation “hubs” that are emerging globally. These physical spaces nurture a culture of mutual support that enable collaboration among different change makers and initiatives. The creative space along with the processes utilised to facilitate collaboration, self-organising and adaptation is what makes these “hubs” really powerful transformational environments.

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