According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. That’s appropriate given the short-term and long-term pressures facing humanity. We are going to need the speed, strength, and bravery these big cats are renowned for. To balance immediate quarterly objectives with developing a sustainable strategy for the long haul, organizational leaders will have to be both agile and courageous.
As environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns rise, there is renewed impetus to adopt foundational, long-lasting practices that are consistent with the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. In effect, we are seeing a gradual shift from shareholder capitalism to a stakeholder economy that can withstand extreme events.
For many organizations, the decade ahead could be a matter of survival. Basic business requirements, such as financing and access to capital, will be tied to how a broad community of stakeholders view the business. For example, financial institutions may withhold loans to “unfit” businesses that are not aligned with the UN goals.
To survive and thrive, organizations need to get better at harnessing existing innovations, as well as innovating further still. When it comes to the climate, waiting for better options to arrive—instead of actually implementing the solutions we already have—is a luxury the world can’t afford.
The pursuit of sustainable innovation will depend on creativity, resilience, and adaptability.
To properly manage and quickly scale innovations, organizations need to fully exploit the latest digital technologies. For example, data analytics and artificial intelligence could help to optimize the deployment and scaling of hydrogen fuel, energy from biomass, and carbon capture and storage.
As the pursuit of sustainable innovation will depend on creativity, resilience, and adaptability, changes to the operating model are also likely to be required. We recommend that organizations develop a center of excellence for innovation that decentralizes decision-making and empowers local teams to own initiatives focused on solving technical challenges that lead to breakthrough opportunities.
We also regard the following three “future-fit pillars” as vitally important:
- Enable and expand external innovation ecosystems that help build a community of practice for sustainability.
- Build a structured process that nurtures disruptive ideas from problem discovery to final realization.
- Tap into new technologies — especially those emerging from the Fourth Industrial Revolution — for strategic insights that guide game-changing innovation. Here, innovation management software offered by Planbox can help.
The ongoing shift to sustainability could see the most radical change to companies’ operations for several decades. With the Earth itself hanging in the balance, such radicalism is justified. The future must be sustainable, or there will be no future at all.