Pain as the Precursor of Innovation?

The Forrest Four-Cast: January 20, 2018

On Thursday morning, I was honored to speak on a panel at the WorldWebForum in Zurich. Now in its fifth year, this event has grown from humble beginnings to a rather sizable gathering of forward-thinking innovators from Switzerland and throughout Europe. World Web Forum effectively serves as a a much younger, more tech-centric counterpart to the World Economic Forum in Davos, which begins on January 23.

The session that I participated on was titled “Global Innovation Hubs.” Moderated by Sunnie Groeneveld of Inspire 925, other speakers on this panel included Marc Walder (CEO of international media group Ringier and founder of the Digital Switzerland initiative) as well as Taavi Kotka (the former Chief Information officer of the Estonian Government).

The perspective from Kotka was particularly intriguing. Asked by Groeneveld how cities, regions and countries can best foster the radical change demanded by our digital future, his replied that intense pain is the only experience that leads any kind of organization to undertake a new path forward. Of course, Kotka’s answer comes in the context of the massive internal and external problems his country has faced (and to some extent overcome) over the last few decades.

Learn more about this eastern European country by reading “Estonia, the Digital Republic” in the December 18 issue of the New Yorker. Or, better yet, hear from Estonia’s Deputy of e-Residency Ott Vatter at the “Future of Nation States” panel on March 12 at SXSW 2018. This session is one of many panels and presentations that focus on global innovation — click here to browse the many internationally-focused sessions.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.