Sunday, January 4, 2015

Renaissance Leaders, Arts and Creativity - How The Six Characteritics Encompass a Commitment to Arts and Creativity


Stephen Murgatroyd and Don Simpson have outlined the six characteristics of renaissance leaders in their book Renaissance Leadership – Rethinking and Leading the Future. In this book they suggest that renaissance leaders demonstrate six key characteristics during the normal course of events. These are:

·         They practice personal mastery
·         They apply a glocal mindset
·         They accelerate cross boundary learning
·         They think back from the future
·         They lead systematic change
·         They drive performance with a passion

Athabasca MBA students have, for the last four years, been exploring these characteristics and contrasting them to others found in the leadership literature. They have also been interviewing renaissance leaders in for profit, government, nonprofit and philanthropic settings to explore how these six characteristics translate into action.  The six characteristics have been seen to be reliable and robust in describing the leadership actions and thought patterns of true renaissance leaders.

Arts, Creativity and Imagineering – Links to Personal Mastery

Do we need to add a characteristic which emphasizes arts and creativity – the work of Imagineering? What about design as a skill set?

Our answer is no, but we do need to be clear that arts, creativity and Imagineering occur everywhere in our thinking about these six characteristics.

Sarajane Aris and Stephen Murgatroyd will soon be publishing a book on personal mastery in which they explore the role of resilience, compassion, mindful presence, enabling spirit and spirituality, tough love  and persistence in the development of personal mastery. Between them they have seventy five years of clinical and psychological experience, both as individual therapists and as agents of organizational change and transformation.

They suggest that creativity and art can be a key part of the journey to personal mastery:

  •           Art and creative forms (dance, music, sculpture, drama) are all forms of self-exploration and self-expression.
  •           Such art is powerful when the creator is fully present and mindful in the process of creation.
  •          Art and creative work that captures the spirit and spirituality of the individual or group creating it has a powerful impact on those who experience it.
  •          Audiences for art which show empathy for the creators of that art are demonstrating their compassion and self-understanding by doing so.
  •           Using art for inspiration and ideas is a way of connecting to others through a sense of spirit and imagination.

They also suggest that creative art and Imagineering are powerful resources in the development of resilience and in enabling mindful presence.

Links to Cross-Boundary Learning

Artists and creators (as well as designers and imagineers) engage in a lot of cross-boundary learning. They adapt and adopt ideas and processes from one field and apply them to the work in progress. Innovators do this too (over 95% of all innovations are adapt/adopt not disruptive or transformative). Creators use cultural context to shape and form their work.

Similarly, renaissance leaders see what they can learn from completely different disciplines (e.g. health care systems studying FedEx to better understand process re-engineering, creators of artificial limbs looking at architecture to help imagine better designs) to inform their own work.

Systematically engaging in cross boundary learning and seeing art, music, drama as amongst the disciplines to “cross the boundaries for” is a characteristic of renaissance leaders.

Links to a Glocal Mindset

Art, music, drama, film, dance, sculpture are all universal languages. A film made in Sweden focused on a murder on a bridge becomes amongst the “most watched” TV series in Britain. Ibsen’s play The Seagul is performed all over the world. Why? Because they speak to truths and the human spirit which cuts across boundaries. Just as a powerful brand (in itself a combination of art, spirit and values lived in the daily experience of an organization) can be universal, so too can art.

But the idea of the glocal mindset is more than understanding and connecting globally. It also involves acting locally. Powerful glocal leaders think globally, engage globally and act locally. The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra looked at the youth-music developments in Venezuala (El Sistema) - free classical music education that promotes human opportunity and development for impoverished children which has produced some great musicians but also has reduced crime, ill-health and created a sense of community – and is replicating it in inner city Edmonton.

It doesn't have to be music. Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn of Haas & Hahn have found an ingenious and stunning way to empower some of the world’s most impoverished communities through art. They pain houses and develop community murals. Favela Painting has become a community-driven artistic intervention that has transformed slums and neglected neighborhoods, from Haiti to Philadelphia, into prideful works of art. And, just as Haas & Hahn describe in their TED Talk, these transformations are impossible without the support of the community. Therefore at the start of each project, the two artists host a neighborhood barbecue, as they have learned that food is the best (and quickest) way to any community’s heart.

Links to Think Back from the Future

2015 is the anniversary of Back to the Future, made in 1985. The film imagined what life would be like in 2015. The writers and designers got several things right:

  • ·      tablet computers,
  • ·      wall-mounted TV screens,
  • ·      wireless videogames and
  • ·      people playing with their handheld devices at the dinner table
  • ·      hoverboards (which became available in October 2014)

Not all of their predictions were right – we’re still expecting men to wear double ties and no one has been making the sequels to Jaws which would have is watching Jaws 19 in 2015. But this is not a bad list of successes. Similar successes can be seen from Star Trek, Asimov’s 1947 short story Runaround. As a genre, science fiction is useful in imagining the future.

But so too are futuristic writings in medicine and health. When the X Prize foundation in partnership with Nokia offered a prize for a wireless handheld diagnostic device and a larger Qualicom X-Prize for a Tri-Corder (wireless handheld device that performs diagnostic functions) worth US$10 million. The winning device has to measure specific sets of health conditions:

  1. ·      Required Core Health Conditions (13): Anemia, Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Diabetes, Hepatitis A, Leukocytosis, Pneumonia, Otitis Media, Sleep Apnea, Stroke, Tuberculosis, Urinary Tract Infection, Absence of condition.
  2. ·      Elective Health Conditions (Choice of 3): Allergens (airborne), Cholesterol Screen, Food-borne Illness, HIV Screen, Hypertension, Hypothyroidism/Hyperthyroidism, Melanoma, Mononucleosis, Osteoporosis, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Shingles, Strep Throat.
  3. ·      Required Health Vital Signs (5): Blood Pressure, Heart Rate, Oxygen Saturation, Respiratory Rate, Temperature.

What was the inspiration for these prizes and challenges? Science fiction (in particular the device shown on Star Trek as used by Leonard “Bones” McCoy).

Links to Leading Systematic Change

At various period in history, the nature of an art form changes. Painting has passed through a variety of phases – Bauhaus, Cubism, Expressionism, Minimalism, Arts and Crafts, and many more – each led by an artist or group of artist who develop a passionate and thought-through framework for their work. Despite rejection, challenge, criticism, and ridicule they persist.

Leaders who want to lead systematic change practice three things:

1. Thinking ahead: being bold, visionary and forward-thinking in aspiring to create a great organization. Key here is the foresight to avoid distractions such as the naysayers and contrapreneurs: focusing short-term gains in test scores or the privileging of ‘quick-fixes’ sometimes offered by technology vendors or change consultants.
2. Delivering within: materially supporting and committing to the values and goals one sets. A prime example here is the tendency to side-step the issues of poverty and the readiness to learn factors that could build tremendous capacity to improve educational development.
3. Leading across: working across organizational and supply chain boundaries to learn from each other. This includes sustaining networks that cross local, regional, national and international boundaries to address complex and nettlesome problems such as improving organizational climate and employee engagement.

Looking at the history of change in art, music, cinema, drama, architecture, design, dance can help inspire leaders to persist in this important work. We might usefully ask how do the creative arts support the three tasks associated with leading systematic change?

Links to Driving Performance with Passion

When an orchestra meets a conductor for the first time they are generally skeptical, especially major world-class orchestras. Yet some conductors change the dynamics of an orchestra and have an impact at a spiritual level which affects their playing and the audiences experience of the music. Not all conductors do this – some are really dull – but some do – Bernstein, Sir Simon Rattle, Leif Segerstam, Sir Georg Solti and several more. 

The same is the case for choreographers with ballet companies, singers with bands, key players in jazz quartets, principal violinists in string quartets and other genres. What happens here is that the person of the conductor or the singer in the band becomes a factor in the performance. Rather than just watching a baton or listening to a voice, what the other players experience is the spirit and energy of this person. That is, their passion for the music and for the performance informs the performance and the work of others.

Studying such performers and understanding not “how they do it” but “how what they do changes what others do” can help us all be better leaders.


I wanted to explore the question “is something missing from the six characteristics of renaissance leaders” that would help us better incorporate creativity, Imagineering and the arts in our understanding of the work of leaders. My conclusion is no, there is nothing missing from the “big idea” of the six characteristics, but we can do a lot more in helping people see the connections between the six and the nature and practice of art, creativity, design and Imagineering.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Six Starting Points for a New Renaissance

These are challenging times. Whether its the shifting fortunes of the Eurozone, uncertainty about power and democracy in the middle east, concerns about sustainability with nine billion people expected to occupy the planet by 2050, these appear to be difficult times.

What is in fact happening is that we are in the "in between" times between two major patterns of socioeconomic reality. One pattern, now coming to the end of its natural cycle, is one in which a major super-power dominated economically and militarily, established institutions like the IMF, World Bank and UN were able to steer the world in an direction the dominant powers could support and the global economy functioned well in the interests of the wealthy and the growing middle class. The emerging pattern is one in which power is shared between a number of different interests - China, India and sometimes Russia balance the interests of the US and the EU, as we saw with the vote at the UN concerning Syria in early February 2012 - and the "old" institutions appear no longer "fit for purpose". The relative power and authority of the US, not to mention its economic strength, is changing as other countries strengthen their economies and secure growth.

But there are other changes which are important in that they are shaping the shift from the old paradigm to the emerging frame which we will use to understand the world in which we live. Six particular patterns are shaping this new reality, each will be described briefly here. As we think about each, the challenge is to see them as opportunities for a new enlightenment - a new renaissance.

Demography is not destiny, but it is clearly shaping a great many issues in the developed world. Canada, for example, has a birth rate below replacement as do many countries in the European Union. What this means is that fewer people will be in the workforce and able to support those too young or old to work or unable to do so. It also means that immigration becomes the source of new labour and the sustainability of the economy, with implications for culture, community, identity and values. As many will live longer, thanks to advances in regenerative medicine and social conditions, strains will be felt in health care systems and on personal wealth. It will be the best of times for communities and the worst of times.

Economies are changing dramatically. US sovereign and public debt and unfounded liabilities exceed $210 trillion while private indebtedness stands at $14 billion. Growth has stalled in many parts of the world and there are various forms of economic crises, ranging from the challenge is sustaining the Eurozone, the UK's failure to tackle growth and fiscal responsibility to the slow down in the rate of growth of both India and China. The rosy millennial forecasts now look not just like "cockeyed optimism", but wishful thinking. We are looking at a sea change in how the global economy functions.

Power is shifting. From the continued fall out from the Arab Spring, to new power alliances over climate change which have emerged post-Copenhagen and new roles for the BRIC economies, we see the dominance of the US in decline and the rise of issue based coalitions. There is no post-Washington consensus. The weakness of the military performance by the US led coalitions in Iraq and Afghanistan are also signals that "all is not as it once was". What is clear is that power is uncertain and major challenges to the stability of regions - Syria, Iran are examples- show that power and authority are now diffuse.

Sustainability and the balance between human activity and the well being of the planet remain delicate issues, but are shaping strategies for energy, transport, innovation, growth and development. With seven billion people living on the earth and two more billion expected by 2050, we need to get smart about our life style expectations, social corporate responsibility and leadership. It is clear that using guilt as the basis for encouraging action - the thrust of the climate change movement - has led to only modest and insignificant changes in behavior. But a focus on the opportunities created by population growth and making the innovation challenges of sustainability an imperative could enable adaptation and change. Whatever happens, we need to change our behavior so that we can feed, shelter and support sustainable lifestyles for nine billion people - a major challenge.

Technology has enabled major change. Technology enabled flash mobs to staged the overthrow of corrupt governments, is the engine of the global economy, the reason so many people will live longer and the new way in which people meet each other for marriage. Whether it is regenerative medicine which is using stem cells and related technologies to regrow organs or restore function to failing organs or information technologies which are changing the way education is delivered in countries that are unable to build and staff schools, technology has been transformative and disruptive. The book, music, travel, banking and communications businesses are changed forever. The ways we manufacture goods using robotics or undertake police investigations using new forensic tools are all indicators that technology is having an impact on the day to day lives of billions of people. And we haven't seen anything yet if technology futurists are right. Technology will continue to disrupt.

Identity is changing. A young boy of seven in a small remote village in the Canadian Rockies explained to me that he had 149 friends, only six of whom lived locally. His other "friends" lived in eleven countries. With some surprise he told me that his French friends knew a lot of French and could help him with his French homework! But this story masks an issue. He is in fact very lonely and disconnected from his local "real" world while highly engaged in a virtual world. His identity is not rooted in reality, but in the world of Facebook, Twitter and computer games. He has not spent time playing actual games like football, baseball or hockey but does play basketball online with friends in Germany. I was seeing him because, as a psychologist, I was a point of call for his depression and anxiety. Identity is also a challenge for those immigrants recently arrived in a new country who are trying to come to terms with different cultures and social expectations, not to mention values and beliefs. Identity is a growing challenge in the new paradigm.

Making Sense of the In Between Time

These six patterns of change are the drivers of the shift to the new paradigm. They are leading to new economic realities, new power balances, new cultural realities within communities and a new focus on sustainability. It would be easy to be pessimistic - the natural state for those who dislike change and would prefer to cling to the past than to leapfrog to the future.

What would help is if the future were clear - a vision and understanding of the innovation expedition it will require for us to "arrive" somewhere on the S curve of the new paradigm. But this vision is elusive and unclear, with many articulating a bleak view of the future.

The renaissance was like this, at least according to Jacob Burkhardt’s Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1878). It was an “in between time” with many seeing the rise of individualism, the new economic reality of States and the decline of feudal power as a paradigm shift. Renaissance thinkers saw the opportunity and created new approaches to politics, new institutions, new forms of art and literature, new ways of thinking. They leveraged emerging technology to make things happen and they found centres of excellence which became lighthouses for what the future held. This is what is needed now.

There are developments which suggest elements of a new renaissance emerging. From the RSA's academy in Tipton, the Eden Project based in Cornwall, remarkable experiments in pairing seniors with young children to promote literacy, new technologies for personal health management, plans to build carbon neutral cities and communities, new forms of energy being found and exploited as well as advances in social engagement and the occupy movement - all are signs that people are reaching out to the next paradigm.

A vision of a sustainable planet where nine billion people have access to water, food and shelter and are able to live a life that they find has meaning so that they can give meaning to the lives of others through compassion and social action is worth pursuing. A vision for enlightenment, focused on leveraging our innovative capacity to respond to challenges as opportunities rather than threats is a mission worth pursuing. A strategy aimed at lowering barriers to the sharing of ideas, understanding and knowledge so as to accelerate development and give more people the chance to live meaningful lives is a strategy we should support.

These are the elements of the society we are working towards, but it will be a messy journey. We can expect conflict driven by scarcity, envy, ideology and misunderstanding. We can expect an increase in distress before we see an increase in hope. We can imagine mist-steps on our journey to a different future. What we can't expect is to go back.

The great baseball legend Yogi Berra once famously said "the future isn't what it used to be". He was right. We should take comfort, then, from Dan Quayle's belief that "the future will be better tomorrow".

*This talk was given to a meeting of Canadian Fellows of the RSA held in June 2011 in Vancouver. Dr. Stephen Murgatroyd, PhD FBPsS FRSA is a writer, management consultant and entrepreneur based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.*

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Six Characteristics of Renaissance Leadership

The Innovation Expedition has been working with leaders in government, for profit and non profit organizations across the world for over twenty years. We have leveraged this experience and that of our highly experienced network to ask the question: when we look at the “stand out” leaders of the current age – those who understand the new renaissance and are leading their organizations to be best in class – what do we see them doing?

The Six Characteristics

Our response is that there are a great many factors which shape effective leadership within a sector or organization, but that six key characteristics stand out as necessary conditions for renaissance leadership. In our view, renaissance leaders:

Practice personal mastery

They have high integrity and view self-awareness as a prerequisite for leadership. They work hard to develop their capacity to innovate, and to inspire others to join them in making the world a better place.

Apply a glocal mindset
hey have a keen sense of history and seek a holistic understanding of changes taking place on a global scale. They use this global perspective as they address local challenges and seize opportunities (global and local – hence “glocal”).

Accelerate cross-¬boundary learning

They constantly seek to satisfy an intense curiosity about every facet of human life, past and present, scientific and artistic, technical and social. They guide others in distilling meaning from a morass of information, and efficiently apply their learning in creative ways to nurture innovation and drive improved performance.

Think back from the future

They are readily able to imagine and articulate alternate futures and work back from there – connecting with lessons from the past to better understand the present and choose among possible paths to the future they see.

Lead systemic change

They are systems thinkers who seek out patterns, inter¬connections and inter-dependencies. They are skilled in seeking common ground and nurturing productive collaboration across diverse parts of a system – be it an organization, a sector, a community, a network – to solve complex problems and drive large-scale change.

Drive performance with a passion
They care that their leadership makes a substantive and sustainable difference, and are relentless in their commitment to performance. They articulate clear (and high) expectations of themselves and others, create focused strategies for innovating to achieve these ends, and are disciplined about assessing progress.

These six characteristics are not listed in order of importance nor are they intended to be complete – it is the list we have arrived at on this stage of our expedition.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The New Renaissance

The term “renaissance” has an interesting history. It was first used retrospectively by an Italian artist in 1550 to describe the restoration of artistic endeavour by Tuscan artists after the decline and fall of the Roman empire. Artists like Cimabue (1240-1301) and Giotto (1267-1337) had worked to restore art as a feature of society.

It was not until the nineteenth century that the French word “renaissance” achieved popularity in describing the various cultural movements that began in the 13th century. It was first used in this way by the French historian Jules Michelet in 1855 and was made popular by the work of Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897), especially with his book The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy which, though originally published in 1860, remains a classic description of the Italian renaissance 1350-1550.

The modern view of “renaissance”, espoused by writers such as Randolph Starn, is that it refers not to a particular period of history in a particular location but to a series of events, some of which are contradictory or paradoxical, which suggest a significant and irreversible change in the way society views art, itself and others and how individuals relate to each other. Also involved is a change in the role of institutions and a different role for science and religion. In short – it’s a description of a period of flux in which some of the fundamentals of society change.
Characteristics of the “Old” Renaissance

Many regions were seen to fit this description in the 1300-1600 period – England, Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, Poland and many eastern European countries claim a renaissance. They each experienced different events, influences and changes, but common to them are these seven elements:

1. Changes in understanding of the nature of a nation state and the way in which its citizens relate to it.
2. A revival of interest in the past, in the medieval period, this focused on antiquity and the lessons that could be learned from a better understanding of antiquity.
3. A strong interest in science and technology.
4. Changes in the patterns of trade, bringing with it new understandings of the world and the “way the world works” – especially in terms of cultural differences.
5. An understanding of the importance of the arts (painting, sculpture, theatre, literature, design) in shaping communities and its leaders.
6. The emergence of new institutions and new alliances.
7. A changed view of the way in which man relates to nature – largely informed by advances in scientific thinking and philosophy.

Thus the idea of a renaissance can be seen to focus on changes in world-view and meaning, rather than just events in a particular location over a particular time.
Characteristics of the New Renaissance

We are living through a renaissance period now. Whether in North America, Europe, China, India, Brazil or the United Arab Emirates, this is a different time from that in these same places in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

What has changed are these six things:

1. The world is now both flat and lumpy – this the age of globalization where an individual is able to buy food in a local store in Vancouver which has travelled from Africa or China to be there. Where the BMW Mini, assembled in Cowley (Oxfordshire England), has parts from over sixty countries shipped “just in time” for daily manufacture. Global supply chains provide the landscape for commerce. The internet also removes the barriers of geography and distance for many individuals – eBay users buy goods from individuals or companies anywhere in the world and Facebook and MySpace subscribers create active personal global communities. In this way, the world is flat. But is also lumpy – there are centres of excellence in the world which are widely recognized as such by those who know: Mumbai and Hollywood for movies; Dubai for derivates trading and port management; Paris, London and New York for fashion; Holland and Kenya for flowers; Silicon Valley and Bangalore for technology; Germany and Denmark for wind power technology – the list goes on. These geographic areas of jurisdictional advantage create economic engines which drive the flat world.

2. The environment and the planet are challenging us – whether you believe that humans or nature are the cause of climate change and global warming, both are taking place. The temperature of the earth rose 0.6 degrees over the course of the twentieth century and continues to show signs of rising, though not at the rate many climate models suggest. What is certain is that individuals, communities and governments increasingly understand that the planet is part of our lives and not something we can take for granted. Air quality, water supply, climate and pollution are high agenda items for any discussion about the future – high on the agenda in a way that was not the case for most people just twenty five years ago. Water alone is seen as a sufficient environmental challenge to create global shifts in population.

3. Demographics are changing – Most developed nations will be challenged by a shift in the nature of their populations, with a growing number of individuals out of the work force being supported by fewer in the workforce.

4. New science and technology has transformed society

5. The is a knowledge economy demands new approaches to issues, challenges and opportunities -

6. Individuals Relate to Society, Community and Each other differently

When combined, these six features of the contemporary renaissance have a profound impact on people, community and organizations. This can be seen in the way in which art, theatre, movies, drama and literature capture issues and the way in which our politics are now emerging. The impact of these six forces can also be seen on the way in which organizations are changing – the slow demise of the three major car manufacturing companies in the US (Ford, GM and Chrysler), the impact of the “global credit crunch”, the changing fortunes of religious movements and the new world of news and information.

Some of the current challenges are issues long unresolved from the past – the place of women in business and society, the role of the State in welfare and health, the nature of schooling – but others are disruptive issues which have arrived from recent developments in science and technology – the potential of genetic modification of species (including ourselves), the danger to health of nanoparticles, the ease with which others can steal a person’s identity – these challenges were without meaning twenty years ago. New ones will soon take their place.

Yogi Berra, the baseball player, once said that “the future isn’t what it used to be”. He was right. In fact, the world is quickly becoming a different place – a renaissance world with new patterns of behavior, knowledge and understanding.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bursting the Green Bubble Takes Leadership

Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat and a columnist for the New York Times, wrote an editorial piece in the New York Times recently about greentech and the green strategies of governments which ended with these words:

“We have a multigenerational problem that requires a systemic, multigenerational response, and that can happen only if we get our energy prices right. Only that will guarantee green innovation and commercialization at scale. Anything less is wasted breath and wasted money — and any candidate [for the Presidency] who says otherwise is only contributing to global warming by adding hot air.”

His point is that many of the “solutions” being touted to global warming are small scale and that the pace of change is too slow to make a difference.

Key to all of this, in his view, is the pricing of energy – changing behaviour through market is how real change will occur.

Several steps would be needed to make this happen. First, there would be a need to challenge energy producers to reduce carbon emissions significantly – adding costs to the supply chain, well to wheel. Second, it would be helpful to demand that cars can travel additional km’s from a litre of gas – creating better use of the gasoline or gas-ethanol blends. Third, there would be a need to increase gasoline taxes and reinvest the additional funds in public transport systems and infrastructure. Fourth, there would be a need to increase royalty rates from wells and oil production – adding yet more costs to the supply chain. Finally, a green tax on all forms of air transport – people and goods – would further demonstrate that CO2 emissions - e.g. a tax on air travel that went into a carbon offset fund.

When gas at the pump gets to be $4.50 to $5.50 a litre here in Canada, then social behaviour may change.

So too will other things. Poverty will increase – food prices and costs of almost all goods will increase significantly. Travel will become very expensive – a tank of gasoline for a trip to Calgary from Edmonton would cost $275 – economic activity would slow.

It’s a tough call. No one is willing to make it. But a true renaissance leader would show the courage and determination to do so - wouldn't she?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Energy - The 21st Century Renaissance

If we need evidence that a renaissance is taking place, look at the energy sector.

Since the emergence of personal transport felled by gasoline after the second world war and the installation of electricity in every home, burning carbon based fuels became a normative way on producing energy. We were not concerned about the green house gas effects of carbon emissions in the 1950's or 1980's and only started to become concerned in the early 1990's and seriously since 2000 as evidence mounted that global warming was occurring and that carbon had something to do with it.

As we move towards a zero carbon emissions economy as an ideal, energy is suddenly experiencing a renaissance, both in terms of technology and innovation but also in terms of how it is perceived. CleanTech energy - wind, solar, hydro and thermal - is emerging as a substantial industry, attracting very large amounts of investment. Integrated energy systems - using coal and other forms of energy supply in an integrated way - is an active discussion. Clean coal technologies, carbon capture and storage (sequestration), biofuels and bioenergy are all active conversations and developments.

Energy is truly an area where a renaissance is taking place and where leadership is required to ensure that the renaissance is sustained in a way that helps to continue to provide both affordable and clean energy.

To read more about what is going on in energy, take a look at the Energy Futures Network website by clicking here.

The Challenge

We are living through a new swing point in history, which began somewhere around 1970 with the coming together of a host of new realities (social and cultural, technological, economic, ecological, and political).

Some of the key drivers of change for this new era were the tremendous increase in global competition, the changing nature of competition, the explosion of new technologies (particularly information and communication technology) the emergence of global capital markets (made possible by the new information technologies) and dramatic changes in demographic patterns.

The arrival of this new economy has sparked a global, organizational revolution. Government policy-makers and business organizations around the world now find themselves needing to figure out the new rules of the game and quickly develop strategies and skills that will allow them to compete successfully. In essence, they need to get into shape to play the game.

The “playing field” is based on knowledge as a critical resource and is global in scale. The new economic challenges, however, are not simply faced by companies relying on international trade. They affect all firms in a country (and indeed throughout the world). More importantly, the challenges directly affect many other aspects of our lives. Our health care and education systems, social services, arts, and cultural activities all depend on the revenue obtained from the income of the market sector. Thus, organizations in all areas are being challenged to transform themselves to function successfully in this new knowledge economy.

Only nations (regions and cities) that continue to create new wealth can sustain high-quality physical, social, economic, political, and cultural environments.

The New Renaissance of the Knowledge Age
A thesaurus offers synonyms for “renaissance” such as regeneration, revitalization, rejuvenation, and reawakening. Antonyms (opposite meaning) include words such as failure, decline, decay, decadence, and deterioration.

The word “renaissance,” in modern times, has come to denote new energy, new thinking, and new initiatives in a wide variety of areas. The term is also used to refer to people who have the capacity to integrate important elements from a range of disciplines and from a variety of sectors (manufacturing, retail, high tech, health, sports, education, nonprofits, and the arts).

In the 1980s, prophetic voices began to speak of the need for “Renaissance Leaders”. (One of the first business leaders to speak in these terms was Walter Light of Northern Electric – now Nortel). Slowly leaders have been appearing who demonstrate many of the required new skills such as:

Exhibiting insight (into globalization and the knowledge economy)
Practising innovation (putting new knowledge into action in a manner that makes a difference in performance)
Utilizing imagination as the foundation for innovation (the ability to apply out-of-the-box thinking in dealing with complex challenges)
Nurturing collaboration and co-creation (helping diverse groups to work together efficiently and effectively to co-create new products and processes)
Practising Systems Thinking (the ability to see the big picture and to integrate content, development concepts, implementation processes, learning, and leadership skills to utilize new information and communication technologies)
Inspiring others (ability to excite others to function in this manner)
Honouring diversity (acknowledging the critical need for diverse ideas and approaches to support breakthrough innovations)

Our Global Innovation Network is an attempt to help people get into the spirit of this kind of leadership. So we are looking to connect successful and aspiring innovators from a variety of sectors (business firms, non profits, government agencies). In searching globally for these modern day Renaissance leaders, we are posing intriguing questions such as: Where is the modern day Florence, Venice or Rome? Which communities (physical or virtual) are exhibiting the ability to function as rich enabling environments for the new renaissance leaders, for the breakthrough innovations they are trying to stimulate, and for the new style organizations they are creating? What is the nature of these new wealth creating organizations and what is the nature of the supporting organizations necessary to nurture growth in the knowledge economy?

This is our exciting challenge!