Not a single thing can save us. But a mix of all things might.

January 4, 2019 Leave a comment

simplisticityThere is a wide consensus on humanity facing, in the coming decades, its toughest existential challenge since it emerged from the rain forest as a relatively feeble species, whose chances of survival in the savannah were slim “in the eye of the tiger”. It is not the first time. During the neolithic agricultural revolution, human population went through a first exponential growth (from a few millions to a few hundreds of millions) coupled with a serious deterioration of its average health due to the close proximity with herds of domesticated animals. That deterioration culminated in the 14th century’s Black Plague, which mauled the world population from an estimated 450 million to 350 million. As bad as it was then, the challenge is even more daunting now: with a second exponential growth, kick-started by the industrial revolution 250 years ago or so, humanity is facing the prospect of earth resources being grossly insufficient to support the 10-12bn humans that should populate the planet by the end of the century. 

To address this much bigger challenge, I hear, unfortunately, too much strident advocacy of too many simplistic approaches. Read more…

GreenCake – The concrete block made from rubble

December 28, 2018 Leave a comment
GreenCake - Photo courtesy of Majd Mashhrawi

GreenCake, lightweight, made from waste material – Photo courtesy of Majd Mashhrawi

This BBC short video features Majd Mashharawi, a young Palestinian entrepreneur who has redesigned the plain old concrete block to help Gaza rebuild its infrastructure.

On many accounts, this is a classic innovation and entrepreneurship story: Read more…

Making choices can give the illusion that decisions are being made

November 25, 2018 Leave a comment

Choice DecisionTo choose is to rely on rational criteria as a springboard for action. To decide is to make up for the scantiness of those criteria by exercising one’s freedom. To choose is to know before acting. To decide is to act before knowing.” – Charles Pépin.

Big corporations are good at choosing. They have data, analysts and, to some extent, time. They can benchmark, rank and review before “making a decision”. But, using Charles Pepin’s distinction, it turns out that corporations, in most cases, don’t make a decision; they make a choice. Armed with Value Investment Ratios, cost/benefit and risk/reward analysis, they choose which innovation project to invest into, and which not. And how do they estimate the Value Investment Ratios, the cost/benefit and the risk/reward balance? By tapping into market, cost, sales, profitability data they extract from similar projects that they, or their competitors, have been been running. These prior projects are of course different, but not so different that meaningful assumptions cannot be inferred from them. By definition, this approach leaves the corporation squarely in the tactical innovation space.  Read more…

To be right too early is to be wrong

November 11, 2018 1 comment

Radio_Electronics_Cover_June_1949Launched in 1949 in the US on the back of a massive advertising campaign, the Radio Hat generated a lot of the buzz. With some reason. After all, with transistor technology being commercial and the appetite for mobility on the rise, inventor Victor Hoeflich was onto something.

As the Gartner Cycle would have it, expectations rapidly reached a peak, with nation-wide media leading the charge. On this June 1949 magazine cover, a 15-year old Hope Lange elegantly wears the much-talked-about contraption.

The Radio Hat was not a commercial success. With sales not catching up, advertising ceased within a year and the product went rapidly out of production.

Hope Lange, however, went on to become an award-winning stage, film, and television actress, making one last TV appearance in 1998. Little did she know that, by the time of her death in 2003, everyone would soon be using some sort of Radio Hat in the form of a smartphone with earphones.

The Radio Hat was, as it turned out, a brilliant idea well ahead of its time, but “to be right too early is to be wrong”.


Aion, Kairos, Chronos : 3 time-concepts to master in innovation management

November 1, 2018 Leave a comment

ChronosThe Ancient Greeks made a clear distinction between three kinds of time concepts represented by three archaic deities, who may not have been part of the Olympians, but had a profound impact on the way people thought and acted. These were Aion, Kairos and Chronos. These concepts have been subsequently studied by theologians, philosophers, psychologists, and more. However, with the advent of modern science, the time that we measure has come to dominate the field, even more so after it was turned into a currency through the ‘Time is Money’ equation. In an era where time is said to accelerate, sense of urgency has become a management tool, conflict of priorities is so endemic that “we don’t have time” to live our lives, let alone adequately lead our projects, this distinction may be a useful one to revisit. To avoid esoteric considerations and to keep things practical, I will explore these three time-concepts in the context of innovation management. Read more…

How Entrepreneurial is your Intrapreneurship Program?

October 28, 2018 Leave a comment

Screenshot 2018-10-28 at 16.20.49Corporation are all for innovation, business development, staff engagement. When senior executives look outside their traditional ecosystem, they see entrepreneurs – tech or otherwise – who are threatening to disrupt the market. These entrepreneurs have often launched a seemingly simple innovation, developed their business at a rate that corporations can only dream of – unless they are being disrupted by it and the dream turns out to be a nightmare – and they deliver sleek TED-talks that are so refreshing and engaging compared with boardroom endless powerpoint meetings. When they listen inside their organisations, executives hear from energetic millennials – and some older but no less energetic employees – who are enjoying the security that the big corporation brings but cannot be content with their salami-slice jobs, dreaming instead of their own startup launch. Connecting the dots, it is no wonder that executives want to foster an entrepreneurship spirit in their own organisations.

Enters the intrapreneurship program.
Read more…

And cities will overtake nations on the innovation road

December 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Geoeconomie Institut Choiseul G77As megacities take a lead role amongst the proactive doers in COP21 Climate Conference in Paris, the latest edition (nb 77) of Institut Choiseul’s Géoéconomie publishes my article (in French) on cities reasserting themselves as the ideal spot for technological and societal innovation.


Ever since they appeared about ten thousand years ago, urban centres have served the dual purpose of bringing together talent from various disciplines, and facilitating trade. By fostering both the production of novel ideas, and their access to markets, cities have offered an ideal space for innovation to blossom. Eclipsed for a while by all-powerful Nation-States, cities are back on the innovation stage, as three factors conspire to bring them to the fore: Read more…

Dolce Vita? The joy to create can never be taken for granted

Vittorio Zecchin, Una e mille notte, 1914

Vittorio Zecchin, Una e mille notte, 1914

Enrico Prampolini, Ritratto di Marinetti, poeta del Golfo della Spezia, 1934

Enrico Prampolini, Ritratto di Marinetti, poeta del Golfo della Spezia, 1934

For the second time in a matter of weeks, I strolled, mesmerized, through the “Dolce Vita?” temporary exhibition at Musee d’Orsay in Paris, which covers Italian visual arts in the first half of the 20th century. As we see the poetry of an Enrico Prampolini or an Achille Funi and the exhuberance of a Giorgio de Chirico or a Vittorio Zecchin  gradually grinding to a halt, there could be no starker reminder that the freedom to experiment, the urge to innovate, and the joy to create can never be taken for granted. Read more…