Michel Saloff-Coste is an international integral and global futurist, researcher, business advisor and entrepreneur working with individuals, corporations and governments to foster “fast insights into alternative futures”. In 2013 he became International Development Associate at Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies and in September 2014 Executive Director at Future Innovation Institute on Innovative ecosystems at Lille Catholic University.
Michel explains: “Innovation Ecosystem is a non-reproducible asset. You will find frugal ecosystems in South America, and vivid innovation in Austria, each has developed a singularity linked to its cultural ground”. Therefore, I asked him: What are the characteristics of an innovative ecosystem? Is this a ‘one size fits all’ framework, or does a successful ecosystem require a singular approach, rooted in its culture and environment?
Human beings’ imagination and creativity is unique !
By becoming industrialized, agriculture multiplied its productivity, while at the same time freeing human beings from agrarian tasks. Likewise, the industrial and business world is in the process of becoming computerized, thereby making the specializations of the old days obsolete. Algorithmic intelligence is taken over by robots and computers; human beings are brought back to what distinguishes them most radically among the living: their capacity to create and communicate new concepts. Already, the material production cost for a product is infinitely less than the cost generated upstream by its design (creation) and downstream by making the public aware (communication).
For ten years now, unemployment in France has been rapidly increasing in the closed-in, repetitive purely industrial world, but it undoubtedly is still lacking the genius it needs for taking up the incredible challenge of creation and communication at the end of the century. This is a paradoxical situation, where illusion of over-abundance conceals the deficit in human resources! But can we in fact consider genius as being a resource?
The role played by human resources
The fact that in ten years’ time, one moved from “director of personnel” to “human resources leader” is doubly symptomatic. On the one hand, this can be interpreted as a clear-cut attempt to give value to what finally seems to be the main resource of companies. On the other hand, one sinks still deeper into a sort of mechanistic instrumentalization of human resources in the image of what we knew so well how to do for other mineral, plant and animal resources. What is important with human beings is not just its mineral, plant or animal dimension; it is its genius, its capacity to create otherness, difference, new things. It is this capacity with which computers cannot compete. It is this capacity that definitively makes the difference in the value that an individual or company has today. Nevertheless, the creative act is a leap into the void; it has its origin in another world of order and disorder; it is in keeping with a process of inspiration, where one has to accept the fact of getting lost in order to find. It is for this reason that the instrumentalization of human beings as a company’s intricate machinery is now obsolete, and the actual concept of human resources contributes to the confusion of the past.
Beyond analytical thinking
It is surely not with more of the same old thing that we will escape from the divisionism and reductionism of analytical thinking. Einstein noted that one cannot solve a fundamental problem at the logic level of the problem. It is the nature of mankind’s imagination, dreams and genius that lets human beings look at things from a different angle. Today, we have to have more complex thinking that takes into account that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and respects human beings in their three dimensions of consciousness: spiritual, emotional and intellectual. We have to change our ways of thinking and acting, our systems of reference: change paradigms, and switch from a mechanistic vision to a holistic vision. Instead of making what we are, let us be what we do, and in this way let our dreams and our imagination help us build our own future.
|CHANGE OF PARADIGM|
|Mechanistic vision||Holistic vision|
|We are separate from what we want.||Every desire is one with its realization, and is one with us.|
|One has to find the cause of the effect.||Synchronicity is a sign revealing the path to be taken.|
|This requires force and effort for things to get done.||The more coherent we are, the less effort we have to make.|
|We are insignificant and have to work hard if we want to be noticed.||We are attractive and magnetic. We attract the necessary resources and people we need to know toward us.|
|We are continually focused on what is rational and observable.||Information is holographic.Intuition and feelings are powerful means of discovering what is in reality happening.|
|Finally, we live in a world consumed by failure.Success is difficult and one has to fight to get ahead of the others.||Finally, there are only processes.The process is the end aim and ultimate reward.Success is as simple as a smile.|
|What we do is what we are.||We are what we do.|
From specialization to putting value on each person’s genius
One of the constants that stands out from step to step is the increasing diversification of the jobs that human beings fill, and of the increasing complexity of these jobs. Already during the cultivation and rearing age, human beings witnessed a certain specialization of tasks in relation to the hunting and gathering age, but we had to wait for the industry and trade age for the concept of specialist to become both explicit and the basis of social integration.
Today we know that 90 percent of tomorrow’s trades are unknown, and that we will undoubtedly change fields more than five times during the course of an active life. The hyper-specialization of these last few years is running into something entirely different.
Beyond trades, let’s rethink human beings’ activities based on their “genius”
Can we still talk about changing trades when what we see emerging calls into question the actual concept of trade? Like the industry and trade age obliged humans to specialize, the creation and communication age involves humans in their own “genius”.
When we talk about genius, we are not talking about such or such feat performed with an out-of-the-ordinary slick talker, like the great specialists know how to do. We are talking about being capable of contributing this very particular trait to the world, this trait that means that we do not resemble anybody else. Our genius is our blind point, because it is this posture, without any difficulty, which is the essence of our being in the world. In a world where changes only lead to still more radical changes, it is essential to survive with a feeling of completeness, to reach in oneself this point of no return, where one continuously has access to self.
It is starting from this anchor in our genius that we will be capable of inventing our “trade” which will undoubtedly have the curious characteristic of being unique. The concept of genius must not be interpreted as bringing about elitist attitudes; we are all unique. The problem is simply that this unique, inspired dimension is often effaced, suppressed in a desire to blend in with others, and by our imitative desire to compare and compete.
We are leaving the mechanistic universe of the dialectic of oppositions, where the world is experienced in a contradictory, bi-polar logic. It is no longer a matter of staying in one’s place, but of making a place for oneself. This is not an angelic vision. The holistic vision brings with it conflicts that are undoubtedly even more radical that the mechanistic vision, because opposition is no longer between different times, but instead between different identifies. Each person contributes a unique world. Creating fertile communication therefore requires being capable of moving outside of oneself and stepping into someone else’s world. This multi-“membership” capacity is a key component of future success for each of us, and for the planet in general. It requires each and every one to be capable of looking at their point of view in a relative manner. Since human beings have always had some difficulty in doing this, the holistic vision will require human beings to mature, which will undoubtedly be done through multidimensional conflicts, where basic preconceptions will come face to face with each other.
Become who you are
One of the most difficult things to overcome for individuals – as well as companies – seeking to adapt to this new environment brought about by the creation and communication age is as follows: How to integrate, in an in-depth manner, the various layers of one’s personality. If discovering your own genius might be the simplest thing in the world, you also have to learn to allow yourself to do it, and to accept being radically different from the people around you. As René Girard demonstrated, we are conditioned by all our atavism to want to blend into imitative arrogance. To feel that we are the “best” presupposes that we are comparable, which implies that we are first looking for what bring us closer to the others and therefore distance us from our own specificity.
Therefore, in this desire to do right, individuals move further away from their genius, and what they do not allow themselves, they obviously do not allow others. Which means that behind the scenes of a quite ordinary, spell-binding lecture on the necessity of innovation, experience in companies remains the eternal observation that the best way of being excluded is to contribute a really new idea.
Managing one’s genius and the genius of one’s coworkers requires getting past the automatic reaction that we have all incorporated in ourselves of making alterity, being different, the scapegoat of our woes – woes that are directly linked to our imitative limits. Therefore, we see the one who is in the process of making a breakthrough in the midst of a hopeless situation being repeatedly abused.
Why do human beings often prefer dying or killing to accepting their own genius and the genius of others? We have to become fully aware of the extraordinary suffering that this fundamental deterritorialization linked to genius brings about, and which means that we no longer have any criteria other than the ones we develop for ourselves.
In this context, the formal mask that we built in the social environment explodes into pieces. What peaks its head up from behind – still preventing us from putting our finger on our genius – is the agitation of feelings, desires and hatred, and likes and dislikes, and it is only after having incorporated this “agitation”, after stilling it, that one can gain access to the “void”, which makes it possible to reach the level of inspiration, and the deep anchoring of being in all its genius.
Three levels of consciousness
There are therefore three relatively distinct levels of consciousness used to measure the more or less major integration of the personality of a human being:
- formal intellectual level: binary logic (yes or no).
- turbulent affective level: integrative logic (yes and no).
- empty spiritual level: paradoxical logic (neither yes nor no).
It is clear that traditional education mainly deals with level 1. In the years to come, human beings’ stakes will consist of permitting for as many people as possible to gain access to logic levels 2 and 3. A person who has not properly integrated levels 2 and 3 cannot assert his or her genius, nor even come into contact with someone expressing his or her own genius. This person takes this as a nightmare.
Development of individual potential
Over the years, we perfected procedures that facilitate the process of integrating the personality, as well as access to the systemic method of thinking, allowing a holistic approach to problems. It is clear that we are quite far from conventional teaching processes: how could we teach someone to be unique? On the other hand, one can create the right atmosphere, and explicitly explain what holds individuals back in their discovery of their genius. We can identify four steps:
- Open-mindedness. This is a self-diagnostic step, where the person takes stock of himself or herself, and replies to questionnaires giving him or her a “photograph” of his or her current situation.
- Skill. Second step, where individuals start identifying their major general tendencies and “breaking ground” as to the zones the most likely to contribute to their genius.
- Consistency. Third step, where people come face to face with the consistencies of their values or inconsistencies depending on the various levels of consciousness they fall into. Premises for identifying blind spot that makes up their genius.
- Creativity. Fourth step, consisting of an essentially individual job, using paradoxical games likely to bring out the individual’s genius.
Development of company potential
Like individuals, who can learn to live comfortably with their genius and value it, a company can, at group level, be more or less open and positive when they come face to face with their originality as well as with the originality of its members. We perfected a holistic system of management that gives value and anchors the company in its genius. There are also four steps here:
- Diagnostic. In this first step, the company, using questionnaires and interviews, learns to run its own self-diagnostic, to see at which levels it falls in terms of the levels of consciousness, and determine what types of mentality (hunter-gatherer, cultivation-rearing, industrial-trade, or creation-communication) drive it.
- Strategy. In this second step, the company learns to refocus on its strong points and to launch a strategy for putting value on its strong points, in conjunction with the typical opportunities of the creation and communication age.
- Polarization. In this third step the various members of the company learn to clarify the formal, turbulent, empty motivations that link them to the company, and negotiate their support of the strategy that seems best to them.
- Tactical: In this fourth step, the company creatively produces the “articulation” of its computer system, its communication and its training, which are companies’ three spearheads in the creation and communication age. The problem in these three fields is to come to a point where it is the personification and extension of the company’s genius, rather than overrated, exogenous specializations.
Above and beyond these four steps, the process aims at activating – throughout the company – circulation of creativity and communication, which makes the whole company become a laboratory of the future, where new, living processes are constantly being invented.
The quantity of information circulating on the planet doubles every year. The value of your “self” and your company depends only on your capacity to become a “source” in this whirlwind that inexorably swallows up everything that is not unique, original, and exceptional. Being excellent becomes absurd, and having a quantitative vision of quality does not guarantee you anything. Only the quality of your quality, of your own genius, can save you.