Bosch Learning Exchange (September 2018)

For most of the second half of 2018, I feel plagued by a growing sense of more-of-the-same at work, the load is growing but we are not becoming more successful in a meaningful sense, so I really wanted fresh ideas and a new lens, hence the desire to pay Ivo a visit in Berlin through the Bosch Learning Exchange in September 2018.

I made a 6:33 long video about the trip for those who prefer a video to reading: https://youtu.be/DlzO9UbEtFE

Broadly speaking, the sum of my work experiences has brought me to a place where I am interested in learning about how innovations can best take place and how to nourish these new “seeds” into a newer, better equilibrium. For the specific purpose of this exchange, I’m really trying to learn how coaching and soft skills can be valuable additions to a regular programme that we run — #codeathon — so youth-made hackathon projects enjoy continuity and forward momentum rather than ending at the hackathon itself.

I did not originally plan to be visiting with Ivo, because he did not originally plan to be joining ProjectTogether in Berlin, but such is how things have come to be in yet another one of life’s accidents which turns out to be beautiful. Neither was I planning on joining a Summer Well-being (what well-being?) Lab in Brisighella, Italy (where is this?) on the same trip but that will have to be another story…

Why Trust Youths’ Instincts on Innovation?

Ivo and I caught up in a co-working space, and I learned that the mechanics of coaching is very straightforward: 8 sessions over 6 months, just executives listening to young people with ideas and giving them greater clarity with regards to acting on those ideas. Yet what makes for effective communication and world-changing innovations is the same class of creatures for which it is easy to generalise in retrospection, but hard to predict with causality and precision. I find parallels between Ivo’s recommended approach for corporate innovation through engaging young people to design future innovations and Sam Altman’s declaration that young people can trust their instincts on what are going to be fast-growing markets and therefore to start start-ups based on their natural advantage.

This is a very human-centred, future-centric approach to entrepreneurial innovation that is a stark contrast to the last time I ran a corporate hackathon at Code for Asia, and young people demonstrated ideas for how a.i. and blockchain can change a traditional industry and the industry did not “buy” it. Veterans obviously have good reasons for thinking why a new idea will not work, youthful naïveté is both a blessing and a curse, but it is also interesting to consider the limits of learning from observations or experience and that all it takes is one black swan to invalidate a general theory that “all swans are white” as supported by millions of prior confirmatory white swans spotted.

What came as the greatest surprise to me about #startupnextdoor is this corporate vision and preparation for a future without cars from an automobile company and I think that this is the sort of conversation that we are nowhere near having in most of Asia right now.

If we do not take any pre-existing paradigm as the rightful, natural order of things prima facie, then perhaps we have an opportunity to deposit all that has melted into air as solid again. I think I am naturally inclined to be intrigued by how innovations take place and how ripples can rally into tidal waves because I am bored by the “default” order of things. Ultimately, these curious inquiries in different directions generally converge on the centrality of humans and trust in the innovation process, or maybe this is really my confirmation bias speaking.

Statistically, over half of world’s population is under 30 years old, so the numbers speak for themselves in answering why this collective, a cacophony of aspirations and frustrations deserve an audience. I hope to expand on the necessity of trust (or what I like to call “The Chinese Way”) in the innovation process in another piece. For now I am happy to have my goals met pertaining to learning about the mechanics of coaching and storytelling to multinational companies from Ivo through this Bosch Learning Exchange. Execution will be another story altogether, and that is something that we are in the midst of figuring out together right now to deepen these cross border learnings and exchanges.