July 11, 2014
NOTES FROM THE EDGE: Creative Destruction Breeds New Growth


The Heart of Innovation is pleased to post this wonderful piece by Lynnea Brinkerhoff, our OD Empress who recently attended a WOBI conference in NYC. This is her report.

This just in! Notable disruptions at the edge of the universe include the following:

In 2014, California lost 7B in agriculture due to drought conditions; Banks are bigger in the US now than before the 2008 bailout; There is a reverse effect of GDP and the "happiness factor" in the US; In the UK, there has been an grand exodus away from mainstream energy companies, bringing 600M in revenue to green utilities over the past five years; Japan has a ratio of pay for top executive to the worker on the floor of 11:1 versus the US, which has 475:1 ratio; happy nurses are the top measure of a high functioning hospital system and patient satisfaction rates; oceans are acidifying, threatening all life.

Now why would anyone want to disrupt a perfectly constructed reality like this you might ask?

Maybe because this constructed reality is all we have known, we tend to harbor tenderness in our heart for it, no matter how dysfunctional it is. 6661106.jpg

More likely, corporate interests hold tight to that which still renders only financial profit without regard for the social or ecological cost no matter how broken the business model.

The good news? The recent WOBI Disrupt Your Business conference in New York City took this phenomenon on head on -- offering great hope, insights, and viable solutions.

Tucked away in a small but mighty corporate theater in midtown Manhattan, a thousand or so WOBI conference goers gathered to hear the tales from the edges of the business ecosystem we currently hold as reality.

Much like the newly discovered dwarf planet of Sedna showing surprising activity at the edge of our solar system, there is evidence to indicate that a potentially disruptive force is lurking just outside our familiar landscape, quietly waiting to transform our worldview and way of life.

To this, I say "YES!"


Our future just happens to depend on our ability to identify and embrace these signals from the edge of the unknown. Though seemingly unknown, they are returning us -- paradoxically -- to the familiar.

In nature, the edge is where the greatest biodiversity exists -- the place where worlds meet, cultures engage, and we become even most alive.

If the words of WOBI presenter, Hunter Lovins, are true -- that "the next 10 years is more important than the next 10,000", then highlights of the conference, for me, were innovations in food systems, healthcare, hospitality, and energy -- game changers for the common good -- inspired initiatives all about creating a culture of compassion, an ecosystem of connectivity and belonging, and "entrepreneuring a soft landing" from what appears to be our current trajectory of serious collapse.

Recently, I've learned that it is easier to create a new habit than to break an old one. Indeed, we are all being invited to join the massive upcroppings of new, more socially regenerative, entrepreneurial ventures spoken of in Paul Hawken's Blessed Unrest.

The idea is that these will crowd out and starve the old, dysfunctional structures, letting traditional modes of industry whither on the vine of obsolescence. Custom solutions to meet basic human needs in a sophisticated and sustainable way are the focus of these positive disruptors.

Whether the light was shining on the wise business strategy employed by Unilever which put the kibosh on quarterly reports in favor of employee engagement measures or integrated solutions brought to bear by Mark Bertolini of Aetna seeking human-centric solutions like itriage, or the city of Richmond, CA which is offering to buy back the mortgages on all homes under water, there was a shared sense that an important momentum is underway in all domains.

The call is for horizontal structures that connect us to ourselves, to each other, to the riches of the earth and to the value of clean living as our true wealth.

Circle Hands.jpg

You cannot just liquidate people and place. Everything is not for sale. Everything does not have a price. Call it "conscious capitalism", smart business, enlightened supply chains, or sustainable strategies, the truth is that change today occurs through networks, not hierarchies.

As we engage in our business and social lives, we are called to generate the new rather than perpetuate existing destructive structures.

Common themes noted by WOBI presenters included: longer term transparent thinking processes, high caliber relationship based strategies for business intimacy, bringing the customer closer to the provider, astounding breakthroughs in science, making available endless energy sources that are regenerative rather than extractive.

For the past 25 years, I have been a conscious observer of the phenomenon where what was marginal becomes mainstream in just five years. These days, each of us has the chance to be disruptive and disrupted. Disruption brings innovation.

Do we have the attunement to know what is worthy of our holding onto and what is no longer accurate given our current reality?

As reminded by Chip Conley of AirBnB, an iconoclastic industry disruptor, we can forge the future best by operating on the edge of our uniqueness, merging the technical savvy and passion for the future of our young with the wisdom of societal elders -- and we can do so with flair and drama.

If YouTube started as a dating service and Google was conceived as a research tool for librarians, what hidden goodness for the world abides in our own yearnings?

The key? "Get off the ledge and onto your edge."© Good for you. Good for the world.

WOBI website

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at July 11, 2014 02:11 PM

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