Young global leaders: Harness your imagination to solve “wicked” climate issues

I’m standing in ENR2, the new earth and environmental sciences building at the University of Arizona. With its biomorphic forms and “inside out” architecture, it’s the perfect venue for the One Young World Environment Summit.

Photo: Jacob Chinn, University of Arizona

It’s an incredible audience: hundreds of leaders between the ages of 18 and 30, from all over the world, who are here to collaborate on solutions that address urgent global issues.

My kickoff keynote follows the opening presentation by CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray. If the disturbing picture of climate disruption she shares is the “what,” then my job is to talk about the “how” — the how of innovation as applied to what we at my company, EdgeMakers, call “wicked problems” — those problems that are so complex as to seem insoluble. 
 
 I talk about the importance of imagination in launching the innovation process. I point out that innovation is a learned capacity, that it is fueled by the creativity that we all have as human beings. At EdgeMakers, we teach that capacity by deconstructing the art and science of innovation. Students learn to increase this skill individually, between people, and between teams and societies. Because creativity without purpose is just variety — 
 interesting in and of itself, but without much significance beyond. We believe that creativity really comes alive when it serves a purpose, and in so doing becomes truly transformational. The young adults here at ENR2 are beginning to use these innovation tools for one of the biggest purposes I can imagine — solving climate disruption — an issue that won’t simply benefit from innovation, but requires it. And I invite the audience to imagine that millions of young people, having learned the core skills of innovation, are now ready to link creativity to purpose and make an impact ahead of schedule. Will you join them?

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