Natural intelligence: the common sense approach to innovation
By Méka Brunel, CEO.
On the occasion of MIPIM PROPTECH 2018, I would like to share some personal thoughts on the subject of innovation. All too often, discussions of this topic focus exclusively on technical novelty and take a quasi-religious form, namely that of "technological solutionism" aimed at solving all the evils of the planet. Yet real innovation – i.e., innovation that endures over time and is relevant to human affairs – is more about a broader vision of what is at stake. It is an invitation to question the implications of scientific, technological and societal progress. The subject of innovation prompts a whole series of answers. But we still need to set objectives to make sure it is shared, sustainable and positive. That means putting into words the use to which we wish to put innovation, its overriding purpose.
Innovation is first and foremost a vision
From artificial intelligence to natural intelligence
We tend to forget it, but innovation is not a set of gadgets, tools or connected "things". It is a complete ecosystem, a coherent set of systemic transformations. It is a way of thinking about how we apply intelligence to what we do. On this subject, I read a lot of articles on artificial intelligence, a discipline so often used today to describe what is meant by innovation. Personally, I would like to talk about natural intelligence. In my view, innovation must be at the service of a holistic vision of everything we endeavour to do. This encourages us to think about the convergence of systems (technical, organisational, economic models etc.), and to adopt an inclusive vision of the solutions to be provided, rather than a silo or solutionist perspective. This holistic vision of innovation makes us think more in terms of ourselves as human beings. It means thinking in terms of “Mankind in relation to the Earth”, in relation to the global impact of its activities.
It allows technology (AI, etc.) to be put at the service of human intelligence (models for network organisation/representation) because this vision integrates it into the system as a whole and over time. Innovation can thus become sustainable, benefiting the environment. And this is what I mean by "natural intelligence".
Innovation: a pro-active agenda
Innovation with impact(s)
This vision of innovation as a paradigm for thinking can be a real differentiating factor. For it is not limited to technology but has a broader purpose, that of producing innovations with positive impacts. For example, it leads to green finance, the approach taken by Gecina. It makes it possible to achieve objectives in terms of the circular economy by changing the way we look at practices rooted in accepted wisdom. Take for example the demolish-rebuild model in the real estate industry. Why not do more to renovate and revitalise buildings and neighbourhoods?
A holistic vision makes it possible to see the reasons behind what is being done and to reflect on the impact of innovation before implementing it. This is also more commonly referred to as "common sense", which means questioning the consequences of one's actions.
A "frontier" waiting to be conquered
We have moved away from the precautionary principle nowadays. Experimenting is no longer banned. Innovation is shaking everything up. History is repeating itself: we are witnessing another "Copernican revolution", one that is occurring at the intersection of scientific and technological progress, of arts and humanities, of sociology and, above all, of ethics.
It is indeed a revolution that we are experiencing today, with resources being pooled, greater access to mobility, permanent connectivity, and solutions devised by start-ups in the new economy democratising the latest trends. On this innovation “frontier”, a lot of experimentation will be required.
Natural intelligence – questioning the impact of these uses in the light of what we know about the consequences of major innovations, such as their impact on the climate – may be the essential precondition for meaningful innovation.
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Executive Director Communications, Public Affairs and Brand