Insomnia or a Wakeup Call – Which?

Wake Up or InsomniaYou find yourself slipping into a conference hall unexpectedly. You are confronted by 1,000 participants listening to the conclusions of six very wise looking people at a table, explaining the outcomes of the summit. They are talking about a summit declaration by providing 5 calls for action for a Wake up. Sounds more than interesting, even important.

Now you quickly settle down into your seat, trying to ignore a few turned heads frowning at this sudden interruption after spending their three days working through this Wakeup Call and are quite rightly listening intently. This seems critical, you settle down to listen also.

So, without the drum roll or often accompanied with the appropriate dramatic music the 5 calls are announced:

  • Deliver on the widely accepted and appreciated new instruments and policies (2014-2020) in support of innovation.
  • Build a culture of ‘fail fast’, ‘risk tolerance’, and ‘fast capital’ to cross the valley of death.
  • Create a predictable policy environment and embed innovation as a principle in all measures and decisions.
  • Engage in joint thinking and acting across sectors and along the value chain.
  • Change what you do: a deep mindset change is needed at all levels: companies, administrations, and citizens.

So you have guessed where you are yet?

No, well you are at the winding up of a three day innovation summit held by Knowledge4Innovation (K4I) as the 5th European Innovation meeting that took place in the European Parliament from 30th September until 2nd October 2013.

Apart from 1,000 participants attending, there was in also in attendance three EU Commissioners, 30 members of the European Parliament and 150 speakers contributing their thoughts. According to the press release the conference summit was the largest ever, comprising of 25 events, including the opening and closing ceremonies, a series of conference sessions, workshops, breakfast, lunch and dinner debates organized by summit partners, as well as an exhibition and two press breakfasts.

Am you as overwhelmed by these 5 calls for action to Wake Up Europe?

Yes, these five calls are the suggested action calls to wake up Europe to go and innovate. Now I’ll be honest here, I’m struggling with these. Without the benefit of attending any of the 25 events, listened to the varies debates, taken a pulse of the mood within the conference all I’ve got to go on is these five actions to Wake Up Europe. Actually I didn’t even slip into the hall, I did not attend, I just got sent the press release from the event and from all my investigations and reading I’m a little lost here.

I’m sorry, no really sorry but is this really the best set of outcomes we can do in Europe?

Europe is facing unprecedented challenges; Europe’s very existence is being threatened. Competitiveness is eroding, standards of living are falling, economic forecasts still part offer some dark scenarios of economic decline, ageing populations, social capital and labour force shortage, increased food, energy and water constraints and a changing role of the EU on the global stage. Let alone the rosy picture of complete integration is caught up in a leadership impasse. We are simply failing to rise up to the challenges we have confronting us here in the EU. So we have ‘arrived’ at 5 calls to wake up Europe on the innovation front! These five?

So yes Europe does need to wake up to become really effective on innovation especially execution.  Yes, it must give innovation a primary role for its paramount importance within the growth requirements across each region within the EU. It must drive innovation down  and across all its members countries in better collaborative ways, as each is competing increasingly within a tough global battleground and needs the ‘power’ of combining on finding both radical and innovation breakthroughs. It needs to innovate to get out of numerous sets of crisis.

Dr Burton Lee one of the speakers at this summit, a lecturer, European Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Stanford School of Engineering asserted: “Europe’s core crisis is a crisis of innovation and not a debt crisis. It is a crisis of chronic poor performance in creating disruptive products, new companies, new university models and new jobs”

The intent of this 5th European Innovation Summit had as its original aims:

to identify what needs to be done to bridge the innovation gaps, to overcome the Innovation barriers, which renders an innovation friendly climate impossible, or indeed, less possible than in the leading Innovation strong economies and focus on the key drivers

So let me ask you, do you think the 5 calls for action will waken up innovation  in Europe?

In my opinion, I think Europe is utterly sleep walking even delusional. So yes, it does need seriously waking up for innovation, I totally agree but with these 5 calls to action? No, Really? Seriously? Am I missing something here?

I think we are suffering from all the symptoms of sleep disorder in Europe

Here is Europe we are dealing with all three types of sleep disorder, we are in a very disturbed sleep deprivation, we are or it seems exhausted, incapable of changing our position. It has all got simply to big, too complicated and far too difficult. We lack much and can’t even a more powerful call to innovation action than these five…. actions.

So this must be actually innovation insomnia – sleeplessness as nothing we seem to do is refreshing us, facing us all it seems is a ‘prolonged sleep onset latency disorder’. We are trapped, and as Jürgen Habermas nicely puts it “Dozing on a volcano”

He also suggests in Europe: “there are extraordinary situations in which cognitive sensitivity, imagination; courage and willingness to take responsibility (by) those in charge have an impact on the progression of things“.

I don’t see this rising to the significant challenges confronting Europe by our present leadership. Surely in any ‘universal’ call for action we do really require from innovation, then we need to find statements that will resonate with all within Europe.

That is: EVERYONE  go out and make a significant impact on growth through innovation within the EU and we all will support you in every possible way – cutting down the obstacles, removing the barriers, solving the red tape, pushing in every way all the enablers to help you innovate successfully.

I simply don’t sense this from this 5 calls, they are just going through the motions of existing (entrenched) positions. There is no wake up call here.

We are actually suffering different levels of innovation insomnia

The three levels of innovation EU insomnia I suggest are:

Transient insomnia– this lasts for about a week or so after a conference like this one that I’ve been trying to figure out. You suffer conference deprivation but you soon forget about it as you quickly pass onto another disorder that keeps you in your depression and stressed environment. You do not have time to piece it all together.

Acute insomnia – You feel restlessness for some time after one of these conferences as you really can’t get any new momentum going. Even not as a direct result of the meeting you attended for three days, listening to some incredible, well qualified speakers. You are suffering this acute disorder where nothing really changed to allow you to render any change in your own environment. You still face the same factors of innovation disorder when dealing within innovation inside the EU, can you wait for ever, even in times of crisis?

Finally, Chronic insomnia  and the most serious. This really does last for a long time. This is our primary disorder, the very reason for our insomnia.  Perhaps that is the 2020 real target. We not just suffer continued (innovation) fatigue, we really have got totally caught up in the hallucinations and mental issues that those deeply affected see things happening in slow motion, where moving objects just seem to blend together but really are deeper symptoms of impaired vision that causes double vision – we double our efforts but don’t solve the primary disorder.

We are all caught up in this chronic insomnia when it comes to innovation within Europe. We even begin to use the innovation mantra of “fail fast, risk tolerance and fast capital” to cross from this valley of death.

I’d like to believe we will become fully engaged but it has to be far more radical for innovation to really deliver.

It really does not matter if we agree or not that we have to Wake Up Europe, or we are all caught up in different levels of insomnia? I really can’t believe the 5 calls of action that concluded this meeting over three days of 1,000 participants deals with the fundamental crisis we face here in Europe for growth and igniting innovation. We simply are not really addressing our deep underlying EU symptoms within innovation with these 5 calls for action. Do you agree?

If you would like to read more on this 5th European Innovation Summit held through the organization Knowledge4Innovation then here are some links

Initial Release: http://www.knowledge4innovation.eu/5th-european-innovation-summit-2013

5th EIS Guide Booklet: http://www.knowledge4innovation.eu/sites/default/files/5th_EIS_Guide_Booklet_1.pdf

Programme: www.knowledge4innovation.eu/5th-eis-programme-and-speakers

List of all speakers: www.knowledge4innovation.eu/5th-eis-speaker-bios

Final press release: http://www.knowledge4innovation.eu/press-release-5th-european-innovation-summit-europe-needs-wake-5-calls-action?

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9 thoughts on “Insomnia or a Wakeup Call – Which?

  1. The most difficult call to answer is “Change what you do: a deep mindset change is needed at all levels: companies, administrations, and citizens.” As long as E-jobholder’s existence is not threatened from the outside, their mindsets will stay as is. When jobsecurity is threathened, which no doubt will happen, one may expect be a total loss of the for security craving minds, making radical innovation even more elusive than it already is.

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    • You will never change any of these mindsets if you keep everything just simply moving along. We need a radical overhaul of how we treat innovation and that requires something ‘transformational’. Until then ‘radical’ might be stumbled across but I am sure the worker bee’s will take the risk out of it so it has a smaller impact that it should have had. “Lets keep the status quo – it works for me” is the thinking.

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  2. I attended an Innovation roundtable yesterday here in Delhi … there’s a huge disconnect between the policy debates and ground reality, not only in terms of being far removed from it but also in terms of trying to solve tomorrow’s problems using yesterday’s tools, methods and thinking. The other problem is with trying to make the calls to action so nebulous that an elephant can escape through the ring of accountability. This is not about Europe, it’s about the world. This is not about geographic contexts, it’s about time. (pun intended).

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    • What is sad, there does not need to be a disconnect between policy and reality if we cared to listen and relate. The nebulous comment, so true. When the call to actions are decided before the meeting, then what are you really doing. Then you get 25 speakers all pushing personal agenda’s or themes unaware of the endings 5 calls.
      Today Execution, turning promising research and discoveries into commercial results is the biggest ‘drag’ for the money spent. Make it simple, if it has no constant metric of being commercial or value or worth, then drop it- hard as this is. Move research, institutions out into a ‘hasher’ world of results that make a contribution and work to find this connection.

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  3. Something ‘transformational’ might work! Let’s try to come up with a hyrarchy of transformative forces. Innovation Free zone ? In my capacity as Innovation Sherpa (I join innovation expeditions to unknown heights) I have come to understand that the early phase of the innovation traject is the most important. The transformational something should play in the early phase.

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    • As a Sherpa you tend to be the one that does the heavy lifting, suffer from altitude sickness and get poorly paid. Like you the ‘investment’ is in the planning out and preparing stage. you can’t or shouldn’t climb any innovation hill or mountain unless you have a degree of fitness and understanding of the environment, structure and conditions. I’m caught at present on the idea of simply “changing the message” such as its not (just) profit its its impact- makes you think in different ways.

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  4. Thank you Paul, for this perspective.
    By and large, most organizations are not just bad at innovation, they are an incredible failure. Why? Because innovation as a capability requires far more energy, resources, method, discipline than most people are prepared to pour into it. Government bodies typically do not even have a clue what it takes. David Williams, my TIM Foundation partner, and I wrote a paper on this topic. Care to review it?
    Best Gert Staal

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  5. The 5 calls to action look like the result of large committees; meaning they are like knives dulled to the point that they cut nothing. But, it is good that so many are interested. Perhaps next time one person will write the verbiage and the group can choose which to pursue. For example “introduce acts into the legislature in UK, Germany, Spain and France for a uniform bankruptcy code.”

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