Rethinking Growth and Innovation

futurethinking_09-2009

The Clinton Global Initiative’s fifth annual meeting was held last week, bringing together business and government leaders from around the world to hash out potential solutions for some of the world’s biggest problems. Interestingly, the central theme of this year’s meeting was innovation. U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a speech highlighting the importance of innovation as a means to bringing the world’s economies safely out of our current recession. Numerous workshops and panels were held throughout the week to help leaders wrap their heads around what innovation means and how they might harness it to ensure growth and prosperity into the future.

But in reading the various re-caps and announcements coming out of the meeting, we were struck by how the conversation around innovation seems to have stagnated. Considering the collective power and stature of Clinton Global Initiative members (membership is restricted to CEOs and political leaders), there was very little ‘news’ emerging from the meeting. The problem is that very few people are thinking differently about growth and innovation. Generally speaking, we’re stuck in the past and shackled by our old notions of growth and success.

Umair Haque sums up the problem nicely in his Smart Growth Manifesto from earlier this year: “Tomorrow’s growth won’t come from a person, place, or technology – but from understanding why yesterday’s growth has failed. The same growth models applied to new people, places, and technologies will simply result in the same crises, over and over again. We have to reboot growth: the problem is not what is growing versus what is not, but how we grow.” Haque’s manifesto highlights some of the drastic changes in the global playing field that have occurred over the past decade, and reminds us that this new playing field requires new strategies. Fundamentally speaking, we understand this notion; but very few of us are actually doing things differently today in terms of how we approach growth and innovation.

If we’re truly going to emerge from our current economic crisis, we need to come up with solutions and strategies that look different from whatever it is we were doing before; because it’s clear that what we were doing before just didn’t work in the long term. The greatest success stories from the past few years are different. Successful companies today don’t just offer more features, more variety, and higher margins; they connect with their customers and deliver their offerings with consistency, reliability, and transparency. Yesterday, “growth” could happen on paper without the creation of any actual value. Tomorrow, growth can only happen when we find meaningful ways of creating real value.

How are you going to approach growth and innovation differently moving forward?

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