Part I — Introduction

How can we harness creativity and inventiveness that last? (1 of 6)

A reality check into how inventive enough we are to sustain the unforeseen modern-day challenges.

Dhaneesh Jameson
Mar 27, 2020 · 7 min read

This is part 1 of a 6-part series, where I share accounts of a journey I have embarked on to understand the true ingredients of ‘inventiveness’ and ‘sustainability’. To build my argument, I have looked at patterns from history, concepts of neuropsychology, the philosophy of science, and anything that has resonated with me to find a reasonable explanation.

A long shot of windmills with range of mountains in the background
A long shot of windmills with range of mountains in the background
A photo by Matt Artz

Chapter 1 | INTRODUCTION

The incredible era of innovations and unforeseen challenges

All human beings are born creative. At our best, we have the same capabilities to be incredibly inventive and innovative. It isn’t a special trait carried through the progeny of exceptional beings, but a facet of our essential human nature. Then, how is it that some people and organizations are more innovative and successful than others?

If we look at the history of innovations, there is a clear milestone that divides the time into two parts — before and after 1800, marking the era of the Industrial Revolution. In the last two hundred years or so, we achieved tremendous growth in terms of better healthcare, a longer life expectancy, healthier food and agriculture, improved education and the finest technologies that have changed the quality of life for all.

2,000 Years of Economic History of the world clearly forms a Hockey-stick in the last 200 years

However, if we look at the evolution of modern organizations, we see a recent trend where a large number are failing and dying early in the race of innovations. The average age of an S&P 500 company is now under 20 years, which used to be 60 years in the 1950s according to Credit Suisse. It is further expected to shrink to 12 years by 2027. Almost 50% of S&P companies are expected to be replaced within the next ten years. Does this mean that the longevity of modern organizations lies in their ability to reinvent themselves every now and then? We’ll explore this in the later chapters.

A bar graph showing the average lifespan of S&P500 listed companies in the past years.
A bar graph showing the average lifespan of S&P500 listed companies in the past years.
The average lifespan of S&P500 listed companies in the past years.

This does not mean that all the old corporations will cease to exist, but unquestionably companies in their teens are taking over the S&P 500 list. But 50% of these companies go bankrupt before 6 years, and less than 40% of them will go beyond 10 years according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On the brighter side, the human race has certainly made incredible progress in a short period. But the point of concern is, in the past 50 years, we have consumed more resources than in all of our previous history, probably, much more than we can afford to. Are we compromising sustainability in our greed for profitability? Is our current idea of success and innovation fair and just for generations to come, and not cannibalizing our sustainability in the long run?

At a time when we are busy discussing flying cars and interplanetary travel, the world is also witnessing unprecedented emergencies. In Australia alone with a single incident of bushfires, more than 1 billion animals are feared dead, and an estimated 2,000 homes have been destroyed, with hundreds of thousands of people forced to evacuate. Soon after that, the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 (commonly referred to as novel coronavirus) in early 2020 brought the world and its glorious two hundred years of progress and prosperity to its knees. Even the most powerful countries like the United States of America, Britain, France are struggling through this unprecedented crisis and a war-like emergency it has created.

The pandemic wiped out trillions of dollars of investor wealth globally — all in a matter of a few weeks, and the worst is yet to come. Progress has taken an abrupt pause affecting all domains of human endeavors.

While we might overcome such hard times, a call out for serious introspection of certain aspects of modern-day living is already buzzing in social media. As we progress, it is evident that the number of innovations is growing faster, and the duration between major innovations is shrinking rapidly. But the question we must ask is, how prepared is our system to prevent or deal with such modern-day challenges directly affecting sustainable living on this planet?

It is high time we check whether we are mistaking instant gratification for progress and prosperity. Before it is too late, we should garner the right understanding of these modern-day challenges and nurture the creative capital required to solve them.

Why do the members of the Gen-Z around the globe want to imagine their future differently?

For better or worse, a global trend is emerging of teenagers coming out in large numbers and expressing their growing concerns about the previous generation’s concept of sustainability, prosperity, and growth achieved during this glorious journey of two hundred years. In 2019, a sixteen-year-old made a sensational speech at the UN General Assembly held in New York. She slammed world leaders:

“You are failing us. But young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”- Greta Thunberg

So, did we go wrong somewhere? Why is the kind of progress we thought we had achieved hurting the world today, and especially the new generation of human beings? They aren’t against innovations, but they are certainly not aligned with the way we approach it. They are fighting fiercely to claim their future. They are saying loud and clear that it is time for the world to nurture a new generation of true innovators who care for sustainability… Now more than ever!

Headshots of 10 young boys and girls(teenage change-makers) from around the world
Headshots of 10 young boys and girls(teenage change-makers) from around the world
For the first time in its history, the World Economic Forum welcomed teenage change-makers at the Annual Meeting(2020) in Davos-Klosters to boost collaboration between the generations. Read more here…

Looking at the trend, the next biggest innovations will not be about solving a superficial problem of modern times or the number of jobs they create, but about giving back, making this world a better place and restoring everything we have lost.

In the rat race of instant gratification, we probably lost our vision from nurturing the inventiveness that really lasts. Going by the popular saying, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win you’re still a rat.”

In search of the Holy Grail of inventiveness and sustainability

To better understand what ‘inventiveness’ and ‘sustainability’ really mean, and how we nurture them, I looked into patterns from history, concepts of neuropsychology, philosophy of science, and anywhere I could find a reasonable explanation and learn how to reinvigorate these terms. Chapters 2 and 3 will explore two core hypotheses with supporting concepts and chapters 4 and 5 will examine these hypotheses through real-life examples for further elaboration

Introducing two core hypotheses

In chapter 2, discussions revolve around unlocking the characteristics of sustainability through ‘a concept of balance’ — a recurring pattern seen among the strongest and most sustainable structures in nature.

If we examine such patterns from all past instances of any sustainable growth, it is all about the subject’s ability to change and adapt to any situation, which is the core of what Darwin proposed in his theory of evolution. But not every change can guarantee adaptability. Here comes the importance of understanding the concept of balance as the fundamental law of nature.

This leads to the first hypothesis, that those who truly imbibe the meaning of nature’s philosophy of ‘balance’ will uncover the secret of winning the race of longevity.

The discussion will take you through examples from nature, philosophy, science, and an unparalleled evolutionary history of sustainability that has seen the real test of time and survived through millennia — and is only getting better with time.

Chapter 3 will explore the genesis of innovation in detail through ‘the dual nature of THINKING, and the untapped potential of the human brain’. The premise is that all the greatest organizations ever built on this planet, and the incredible innovations we have seen so far, have come from a human’s ability to think and imagine.

Hence the second hypothesis is to unlock the true potential of our inventiveness. We should reawaken our natural creative instincts first, and the power of creativity lies in the human ability to think.

This will be backed by studies of Nobel prize winners like Daniel Kahneman (psychologist), and Roger Wolcott Sperry (neurobiologist). I bet there are only a few people who could understand the brain better than these pioneers who dedicated their entire lives to understanding the human mind.

The last chapters of the series will combine the above two concepts and evaluate where we stand in terms of innovativeness and sustainability while exploring new possibilities coming from reawakening creativity in its true essence.

Next Chapters

PART IV. | The signals from the past: The world after the industrial revolution- An era of imbalanced thinking with irreversible consequences.<to be published>

PART V. | The golden age of technology: A new world order of corporate leadership and the rise of hyper-growth.<to be published>

PART VI. | Conclusion: It’s time to unlearn, and reawaken the true human potential to build better sustainable systems.<to be published>

D. Jameson

in pursuit of better…

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