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Beyond innovation, back to progress

Good to see you! Things have been busy lately, and sending this newsletter got lost in the flow. Yet

Laurent Haug

May 10 · Issue #35 · View online
News and thoughts on society's ongoing transformation.

Good to see you! Things have been busy lately, and sending this newsletter got lost in the flow. Yet we are at a key moment, Europe might have turned a corner, the tech bubble is about to burst, the American dream doesn’t sell anymore. So here are a few ideas for discussion, either by replying to this email or on Facebook, LinkedIn or Medium.
Laurent Haug
PS: on a personal note, you will find more news about my current projects at the bottom.

The world in 2017
A massive correction is coming to the tech sector, resulting in the end of the second digital gold rush and a return to the fundamentals. Tech companies are increasingly disconnected from what people really need, hardly any meaningful innovation is coming out of those mega structures who, from startups, now look more and more like the monopolies they promised to displace.

The tech industry’s center of gravity is slowly moving towards Asia and Europe. When it comes to Asia, the culture barrier saves us from having to face the fact that Chinese and Korean services are more advanced than ours. When it comes to Europe, the world is starting to take notice after the Euro zone economy outperformed the US in Q1 2017. 

The efforts to take humans out of the loop will fail: we will not run out of jobs. Technology destroys occupations, not jobs! And we are pretty good at finding new ways to keep ourselves busy. What I see is a re-emergence of non-technological innovation, long term thinking, in person interactions, and more sustainable values. 
What now?
It is time to reframe how we think, so I tried to put words on this new mindset in a talk I gave last week in Lausanne at the Prix Strategis. I believe we need to:

  • Understand that life goes beyond data, that many things are invisible, intangible and unmeasurable: knowledge, intuition, reputation, motivation, identity, leadership, etc . These might very well be the most important things of all, because they are what can’t be put into code.

  • Understand that some innovations are better not used. The only intelligent way to deal with atomic bombs is to learn not to use them. Perhaps some digital technologies deserve the same treatment.

  • Understand that technology is here to serve and augment humans, not replace them.

  • Understand that it’s not about wiping up the past, but taking what’s good from both the past and the future to build a desirable present.

  • Understand that innovation is collective and not individual, that every new idea is built on top of centuries of wisdom and achievements like roads, processors, communication networks, laws, books.

  • Understand that the only way to succeed is to bring both the digital and the “real” world together.

  • Understand that there are no shortcuts, that innovation is hard, slow, and always triggers resistance. That the key is to find the questions first, the answers second.

  • Realize that success is multidimensional and personal. Multidimensional because about more than exits and magazine covers: health, legacy, quality of life, contribution to the advancement of society. Personal because each and every one of us has to define what’s important for her or him, without being overwhelmed by the pre-cooked models of success we are served by the hype.
I believe mixing the values of our “old continent” with the zeitgeist can bring a much needed perspective that will help us move past the notion of innovation, back to the more noble idea of progress.
Personal update
I haven’t sent this newsletter in a while for lack of time. A quick look at current projects keeping me busy:

  • A book project that is an extraordinary journey through the events, communities and places working to recreate social capital: Come Together. Almost every social problem I see now takes root in the growing disconnection between citizens. Looking at the organizations addressing this fundamental problem is a fascinating journey.
  • Sitting on the board of several organizations, among them a Swiss startup called Monito on a mission to help people save on international money transfer fees.
  • Two media projects: a TV show to portrait the world’s best entrepreneurs (unconfirmed, 2018), and a radio show to put innovation in historical perspective (confirmed, summer 2017).
  • Investments in startups, lately Loic Lemeur’s Leaders.
  • Speaking on tech trends, innovation, entrepreneurship around the world, getting in touch with an incredible diversity of organizations, cultures and individuals in the process.
  • Another book on How Innovators Think, that will soon expand to a more ambitious and inclusive topic.
  • Other undecided/unfinished/unconfirmed projects brewing: a new event co-curated with my old days’ buddy Nicolas Nova, a 200ideas community to gather Switzerland’s most active thinkers and doers, joining an investment fund, launching a think tank in Southern France, build a series of summer events inspired by Chautauqua, etc
Recent posts open for debate:

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