Why WHOLISTIC Innovation?

Why WHOLISTIC Innovation?


Here, we are operating on grounds where terms have been occupied by stakeholders in society, industries and sometimes even by dubious conspiracies. To understand the objective, we need to take a deep dive into the current state of our global system.

In the beginning we talked about Holistic Innovation. When you search the web for “holistic” hits usually circle around alternative health, very often with an esoteric approach! When I was posting my first interview on Holistic Innovation on Twitter it was quite successful. The post was shared several times by alternative health platforms. I guess they just reacted to the punch word and were not reading the interview.

Well indeed, that is not what is targeted here! There is nothing esoteric in this approach, and medicine – or rather health – is, of course, also subject to innovation. However, the approach is much wider. So, let us rather talk about Wholistic Innovation. It is clearer and we avoid wrong expectations.

Another observation that flattered me as I was taking the path of becoming a so called “expert” in innovation was that this term had also been highjacked by the IT industry. After I had announced my title director of innovation of the Institute on LinkedIn I was flooded by requests from sales representatives trying to sell their latest software bundle to help innovate my organization. To make that clear once and forever: No, I am neither developing nor implementing software solutions for Diplomatic World! Please read profiles more carefully. But it clearly showed: The term innovation has been occupied by the digitalization industry in such a way that it means to digitalize a (business) organization. This is a very narrow perspective.

What this little anecdote illustrates is, however, that Innovation has become a technical term: A tech start-ups launches an amazing new technology that revolutionizes the market. Everything can be handled much easier and more efficiently. Of course, it is not a challenge to the work force. It is only a support tool so the worker can concentrate on other, more important things. That is what we are being told again now, with the implementation of the first robots driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Well, we all know that this is not the whole truth. In most cases it will rather be like that: One part of the workforce is made redundant while the other part needs to handle much more work. Business efficiency increases through positive effects on the margins. Not always but for many years now that is what innovation has generally been reduced to, with increasing momentum.

And this momentum will increase! The next hardware generation, the quantum computers, are already in the making. Small, affordable machines of this next generation will soon be faster than today’s super computers and will likely boost increase of knowledge unproportionally. This will rise security issues beyond everything we experienced before, and it will increase the speed in which individuals will have to adapt to new technologies and innovations.

To many, that is not so easy already today. They do not understand what is going on, they only have the shallow feeling something is going on: their jobs are endangered and things they have been used to all their lives is changing rapidly. This all comes along with a growing perception that systems are becoming increasingly unbalanced and unjust. Huge tech conglomerates like Google or Apple manage to avoid paying taxes by creatively moving offices around the globe.

And that is not the only trouble: All this happens while the climate crisis urges us to change our lifestyle significantly. Of course, this, too, is driven by technical advancements. We are producing more cheaper and it can be transported easily from one side of the globe to the other. We stretch the use of resources in the same way we stretch the ability of our people by using them as cheap workforce in the so-called underdeveloped countries but also in the developed ones. That does not go well for long.

It asks for a new world order, not in the sense of conspiracies planned by ancient Illuminati or Free Masons, but in the sense of designing a new scheme on how countries are working together globally to create a levelled and balanced playing field for all stakeholders to unfold their activities in a sustainable manner. This is the challenge, a challenge also for diplomacy that is as deeply affected by all these changes as are lobbyists and other stakeholders who need to convince those in doubt and longing for their lost comfort zones.

This is the big picture of the situation we are facing today! A changed definition of the term Innovation may be one of the tools meeting the objective. It may prove to be an important one. In many cases technology will remain in the center, of course, because technical innovation often provides the basis for change.

However, we will have to change perspectives:

  • What does our planet need, what do our societies need?
  • How can we improve the quality of life and how must industries change to accomplish all this?

Only then technology should be brought in again – but not necessarily! To give an example: A French food manufacturer produces a chocolate cake that needs to be frozen to remain fresh. This cake is delivered via cargo ship to the USA where it is distributed to supermarkets nationwide to be sold for 6.50 $. Imagine how much carbon is released only to keep it frozen and to bring it over to the USA.

To give an example a good friend came up with: An alternative model could be to license brand and recipe to local producers and distribute locally. For instance, international soft drink giants work on a similar model or we know it as franchising that has become quite popular in retail and the catering trade… Of course, also other factors need to be considered. It is quite a complex issue that needs to be looked at very carefully to make sure it really makes a difference.

The important issue is also traditional models can be innovations when modified or re-discovered to change to a more sustainable model.


Dieter Brockmeyer, is CPO Diplomatic World Group and Co-Founder and Director Innovation & TIME of the Diplomatic World Institute.


Photo: CAC2020