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Inventing the Future With a Perspective of Abundance


Innovation Learnings from the BSR Conference, Part 1:

At the recent BSR Conference, I heard a talk about innovation in an exponentially changing world by Pascal Finette of the Singularity University. He kicked off with this quote from Alan Kay:

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Kay went on to invent the concept of the tablet computer . . . in 1972.


Kay’s comment gets at a fundamental challenge In today’s world: tech-driven fields like computing power, data storage and connectivity don’t change linearly—they change exponentially. But, as Pascal explained, our minds have evolved to think linearly. So, handling exponential changes requires us to stretch, adapt, and reevaluate, individually and as a culture, in order to apply new technologies in creative, positive ways.


We are on the verge of a similarly disruptive transition in the world of sustainability. To date, incremental progress has been the rule, but we are entering the steep part of the growth curve, and seeing new capabilities quickly come to fruition. Solar cells, electric cars, smart houses and dozens of other advances are becoming dramatically more affordable after only a few years.


So how can we harness this wave? Pascal suggests shifting from a perspective of scarcity to one of abundance. He lives in a data world, where abundance stems from computing and storage. Yet those two together can often supplant mechanical and human power. Just look at today’s Corvette sports car, which is faster and far more efficient and reliable than those of 30 years ago while weighing about the same. An abundance of electronics, sensors and software has provided a cleaner, more efficient system than yesterday’s big engines ever could.


To cultivate the perspective of abundance, try taking a component-level perspective on the product or service you’re building. Think about what’s there today, and how it will change over the next 10 or 20 years. How will batteries, motors, and control capabilities evolve? If you can apply this perspective to sustainability solutions, you can start to invent the world you want to see in the future.


Next time: Part 2 - Thinking entrepreneurially in a time of disruptive invention


About the Author:  Lise Laurin, CEO and Founder of EarthShift Global — Lise is a pioneer in Sustainability Return on Investment (S-ROI) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). She continues to develop and leverage sustainability consulting services, LCA as well as SROI software and training programs to build organizational capacity in driving large-scale change. Her unique skill set and knowledge base has put her in demand globally by companies, organizations and governments alike.