Do Not Ask Permission To Innovate


If you face resistance from colleagues or the status-quo it will be a sign you are doing your job, says Pablo Olivera Brizzio, Director – Corporate Innovation at AD Ports Group. He has experience leading technology teams, and injecting innovation in enterprise culture. In the interview, he tracks future technologies that he sees disrupting the way we do business and experience life. He ties in the fact that with innovation comes responsibility to nature and yourself.

Excerpts from the interview;

Can innovation be cultivated as an organisational culture? How can leaders do this?

Definitely, this is accomplished by having some key elements in place, such as:

  • The MD or CEO and the leadership of the organisation needs to be deeply convinced about the imperative necessity to have a self-sustaining innovation culture. It’s important to highlight that you cannot fake it. If the board and leadership do not really believe in innovation, and just want to have it because it looks trendy, or it’s what the competition is doing – then employees and customers will notice, and it will be highly counterproductive. Ideally, the MD or CEO should hold an innovation role themselves – a top down approach.
  • HR should play a fundamental role in identifying, hiring and retaining talent that already have an innovative mindset. It’s much more expensive to hire new talent than to retain good ones.
  • Keep in mind that major strategic company acquisitions are many times made based on the existing intellectual capital of an organisation.
  • Have a clear innovation strategy, policies, reward system and IMS (Innovation Management System) in place
  • Have a specialised innovation team that helps the organisation to innovate in all fronts, especially in Open Innovation, which is so powerful and agile.
  • Each employee needs to feel that their ideas are taken into account and properly evaluated.

Interestingly enough, to create a strong and mature internal innovation organisational culture, it’s imperative to reach outside the organisation and activate an Open Innovation program.

Innovation is like a living organism, it cannot grow if isolated or confined. It needs synergies with external elements to reproduce and multiply, it needs other organisms and the right environment like water, oxygen and sunlight as vital nutrients.

There are much more advanced levels of sophistication and maturity that vary according to the organisation’s appetite and the different fields of play they choose to innovate in.

We need to keep in mind that each organisation needs to establish what innovation approach and structure makes sense for them. There is no universal formula for all companies.

Which emerging technologies do you think can be the next disruptor for enterprise?

We can all agree by now that AI will play a transformative role in all aspects of our lives and across verticals and applications. I see a clear transition coming up and evolving in the next few years, from today’s basic smart decision making and optimisation use cases with ML (Machine Learning) to the more advanced applications.

My favourite areas of disruption are:

1) CRISPR gene editing

With the help of AI, this nano-sized DNA sewing technique will definitely transform the full biology spectrum, from healthcare all the way to agriculture. The more difficult question to answer is who will have access to these wonders, and what will be the real price we will have to pay?

2) Personal Assistants

Other interesting use cases, with a huge business potential in the next decade, will definitely be advanced personal AI assistants who will manage pretty much all aspects of our life. These cloud-based digital entities will be managing our daily schedules, making appointments, designing custom entertainment recommendations, solving complex logic problems and even going to the extreme of choosing our next life partner, based on our profile.

I will not dwell here on the social and romantic challenges humans will face with machines that sound and feel like humans; something Isaac Asimov already warned us about, many decades ago.

3) Quantum Computers

Quantum computers are not a far-fetched concept anymore, and any leading company with a strong CTO can start educating on the technology and use cases, besides training its digital team on a new coding paradigm beyond the binary number system limitations.

As a basic application, many financial institutions are already making sure that their cryptographic security is Quantum resistant, so when the Quantum computers are mainstream they are ready and protected from Quantum attacks.

4) Highly Advanced Multiverses

This will probably be part of Web 4.0 or 5.0. Not as the Metaverse we know today but as a full immersive experience where the transition from reality to extended reality is seamless and at will.

Once again, this will expand the limit of our consciousness and make us question reality itself.

How has the digital transformation of industry elevated the role of data in decision-making?

We need to understand that there was a critical moment in time, a confluence of favorable variables and conditions along with the availability of technologies that led to where we are today.

More than a decade ago, physicists and other science professionals started switching careers into data science. Their own fields did not seem to fulfill their potential anymore. In addition, breakthroughs in the basic sciences can often take more than a lifetime.

They had a very strong foundation in advanced mathematics, and their skillset was highly sought after and remunerated in Silicon Valley. This elevated the field of Data Science to the elite level that it is at today.

However, I have identified an interesting flaw in the corporate ecosystem. Data scientists are very good at dissecting data clusters and identifying correlations, but don’t know what to look for by themselves. They are not to blame, of course, it’s really not their scope to ask the right strategic business questions.

This is certainly the role of the Strategy and Business teams. I’ve seen these teams struggling to frame the right catalytic questions or define clear business direction to the data teams. The question is usually reverted back to the data team by the executive who says something along these lines: “show me what you see…” as if the display screen would act as a kind of crystal ball of the future.

How do you see blockchain becoming more mainstream? What are the benefits for the logistics industry?

Blockchain technology is a key element embedded in the fabric of Web 3.0. Soon, we will not talk about blockchain anymore, it will be a commodity of the new internet, a feature.

However, all blockchains are not created equal and the L1s of today will certainly need to evolve and mature. Still, security flaws and code quality control remains a high risk in some networks, preventing the mass adoption for traditional and conservative industries.

Global, regional and local regulation is another key component for mainstream adoption; the market needs clear rules for participating parties to legally operate across geographies and have the proper financial assurance.

It will play an increasing role in trustless decentralised logistic ecosystems where it’s possible to transact without needing to have a trusted intermediary. Depending on the type of blockchain architecture and consensus mechanism, it offers different levels of decentralisation and reliability.

The bottom line is that blockchain technology is not a ons-size-fits-all technology, and it’s not always required. But when it is employed for the right use cases, it’s very powerful.

A key element for mainstream adoption is cross chain bridges, and the strengthening of oracles to provide data to smart contracts.

How can technologists inject innovation in their role?

Innovation is not really a process, it’s a mindset, a state of mind and an attitude.

Practically, I would recommend a few guiding points:

  • Approach every day with utmost curiosity and ingenuity about the world around you.
  • Abide by a Critical Thinking philosophy don’t take everything at face value.
  • Don’t limit your innovation potential, creativity and talent by your current job title, you actually become what you think. If you want to become a section manager, start thinking, behaving and taking responsibility as if you already had the role.
  • Everything that you do in your daily job has your identity embedded, it’s part of your life, reputation and footprint. You always work for yourself first, and then for an employer. Remember, all your actions, good and bad, right and wrong are ultimately part of your legacy. Make sure you drive your own career, and do not ask permission to innovate.
  • If you face resistance from colleagues or the status-quo it will be a sign you are doing your job.

We should all realise the ethical and spiritual responsibility we have as humans. Just because we can push the boundaries of nature and do things with technology, it doesn’t mean we should. No element in this universe can escape its own karma; nature always tends back to equilibrium.

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