Speech at Sagamore Institute delivered on 23rd October during the forum about Innovation in Leadership to shape an inclusive Industry 4.0

Jay Hein, President and CEO of the esteemed Sagamore Institute: it is great to finally be here, ever since we connected over a common cause. Jim, my colleague and Brother, thank you for your kind introduction.

Dearest friends, I am honored to be here among you.

As I am among friends, so I would like to speak plainly about the hopes and concerns of our times. I believe that as friends, the greatest gift we can offer to each other is the all of ourselves. That includes our identities, our ideas and our insights, so that having exchanged these, and inspired by the method of Sagamore Institute of turning ideas into action, we can collaborate for good.

Last November, when I was in Sao Paolo to talk about shaping a purposeful future economy, a government official came up to me and said: Lawrence what you said about purpose is so important for our situation in Brazil. Because just as you spoke, my daughter texted me and said, Dad, I am no longer into drugs but I am still in search of my purpose. 

My heart broke as I listened to him. Being a father to a young daughter myself, I could feel his pain and feeling of helplessness. 

Friends, we stand at an existential moment for humanity, but a sense of helplessness seems to inflict many societies. Whenever I travel to be with colleagues around the world, whether it is in Vientiane, Rome or in Sao Paolo, instead of hope for the future, many of the people we meet feel lost. We can see this through the political choices that people are making. Many are hoping for quick and bold action for change because they feel abandoned and at a loss. Such political choices have serious ramifications for global cooperation. But their despair is understandable, because from the economy and environment to social relations, we see a lack of progress; and some have witnessed decline. 

The World Economic Forum in describing the future has called this new age that we are entering The 4th industrial Revolution. Though this term, in my view presents a limited emphasis of the situation that we are in. It would be more appropriate and probably more holistic to describe this new period as Humanity 4.0

Why? Because by simply calling it another industrial revolution, it refers to the old ways of looking at issues, again from the perspective of input and output for commerce or work. But in reality, deeply existential questions encompassing all aspects of humanity are now being put before us as we rapidly enter this new age. Questions such as:

  • What does it mean for people when work no longer needs to be the primary means of action since you can have robots for those?
  • What does it mean when new systems claim to provide income without the need for citizens to generate revenue for taxation?
  • What does it mean when more global companies are richer than 50% of the world’s governments?
  • What does it mean for models of governance when our issues are obviously global while our models of government are largely national?
  • What does it mean as countries deal with the rising impact of climate change, a matter which requires shared and coordinated action?

Simply put, we have never had so many complex and interconnected issues coming to roost at the same moment. It is a time that calls for innovation, and for bold and heroic leadership. Which makes the United States the ideal country to discuss these ideas in-depth.

Your country, this beautiful land, is the beneficiary of an innovative idea born out of a group of leaders who believed they could do something different. It was also born at a time of great change. No one suggested to them a formula and the future of the United States was far from secure. Yet with faith and courage, the founding fathers of the United States invented a new model of governance which eventually matured over time, making it possible to make diversity and representation its hallmark. It shaped a great power, unleashed widespread prosperity and shaped the world that we live in. 

The founding fathers of the United States are an example that we can follow. In their time, the new world was literally about new geographical frontiers to be explored. In our times, our new worlds co-exist with robots that can soon match our intelligence, there are implications of urban development as more people live beyond 100, or perhaps exploring new planets if Elon Musk gets his way, and many other unprecedented opportunities and challenges. 

As the present, we have a responsibility to the future. I realized that for those of you who are parents, you automatically think in terms of both the present and the future. I often think of how to help my daughter in the present to prepare her for an unexpected future. So likewise, we can act together in the present and shape the future concurrently.

History has always been shaped by two opposing schools of leadership. One of openness, the other of oppression. While the founding fathers of the United States welcomed immigration, pledged commitment to representativity and openness, much of the world at that time was still run by colonialism. No system of course is ever perfect. Even in a system shaped by idealism, tendencies for tyranny and ego do prevail from time to time.

I believe our lifelong work wherever we are, is to use all of our strength to inspire and shape purposeful actions that prefer openness and inclusivity to shape the future for good. And to begin, the greatest gift we can ever offer to anyone is the gift of positive purpose. 

When I was a teenager, I received such a gift, the idea of shaping a united world. I met a global movement for unity, called the Focolare movement. I attended an international congress of young people who gathered from 180 nations in Rome, we were from many Christian denominations and also of other religions. So many of them shared about their concrete actions of love, and social action for unity, that I was overwhelmed by this great optimistic force for a better world.

I remember the song they sang at this event where it says, imagine a world where there is no more greed, where everything is shared according to need, where the forests can breathe and the rivers still dance with the sea. That seed of optimistic force never left me and it eventually inspired me to found Consulus. I feel strongly that we need a new wave of optimism to overcome the deep poison of distrust, cynicism that has crippled our capacity to dialogue and seek solutions of common sense that Sagamore Institute calls for.

And our work in Consulus is not done alone as we are part of the innovative economic idea called the Economy of Communion (or EoC). The EoC was launched by Chiara Lubich, the foundress of the Focolare Movement in 1991. It was a faith-inspired response to introduce an economic model to bring about equality and dignity for every person who participates in the economy. Today the EoC global movement consists of over 800 businesses world wide, and it also involves people who don’t necessarily belong to a religious tradition but who share in the common cause to shape a better world, a better future economy. 

You may ask, what is the innovative approach of the EoC? The current economic system evolves around the basis of input, output, and is categorized according to the have and the have-nots. In other words, the current system is based on, “I have, therefore I am.”

Whether it is capitalism or communism, both systems were mainly about the means and method of generating, or defining ownership of goods. In the case of the EoC, the first premise is in the inherent value of the person, and then goods. It is a “I am, therefore I can give or generate.” It is a positive-generation model versus a goods-oriented model where the person is secondary or subservient to the system.

This could explain why both models, capitalism and communism, when practiced in extreme forms have a tendency to undermine human dignity, deny participation, and generate pessimism. In our limited experiences of the EoC around the world, we have seen the positive effects of what happens when people with little means are able to look at themselves differently with purpose and then participate in the spirit of giving and generating economic value. This is what we mean by an economy shaped around persons and relationships. 

John Mundell who is here with us today can certainly tell you many inspiring stories of how peoples’ lives were transformed when they encountered this new approach through his enterprise. While John, Jim, myself and many EoC entrepreneurs globally have experienced the positive effects of the EoC, a global leader recently reminded us that it was not enough.

Last year, we were together in Rome to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Economy of Communion. As part of the celebration, we met Pope Francis. In a very strong speech, he literally jolted us into further action by saying:

“The economy of communion, if it wants to be faithful to its charism, must not only care for the victims, but build a system where there are ever fewer victims, where, possibly, there may no longer be any. As long as the economy still produces one victim and there is still a single discarded person, communion has not yet been realized; the celebration of universal fraternity is not full. Therefore, we must work toward changing the rules of the game of the socio-economic system. Imitating the Good Samaritan of the Gospel is not enough.”

Pope Francis’ clarion call is literally the reason why I met Jim, when he and his wife Trish were sitting next to us in the meeting. It is also how we eventually connected with Sagamore Institute, and why I am here with you today. After the speech of Pope Francis, many of us felt that we need to urgently scale up the impact of our EoC work globally, so we started to be more bold and open about it. In the case of Consulus, we felt that we could not allow the narrative for Industry 4.0 to be about technology alone, which seems to present a diminishing role and vision for humanity. Instead we needed to present inclusive solutions to shape a better and shared future. 

So we traveled across the world, signed a series of partnerships with institutions that share this mission of redesigning the future economies of the world for inclusiveness and with dignity. One of the partnerships we began was with Sophia University Institute based in Tuscany, in Italy. We realized that globally there is no executive leadership program that raises consciousness about shaping an inclusive and more humanizing Industry 4.0. We call it the Global Leaders for Unity Executive Course

If we are serious about shaping a more inclusive future economy then this work is urgently needed. Because a new era will require new leadership models and we need to start seeding a positive and creative purpose. 

Sophia University Institute, as an academic institution inspired by the vision of a united world, is a very suitable partner because they are used to organizing classes and programs that teach innovative ways of collaborating in economics, politics and social development. Only offering graduate programs, and now executive development, they have an extremely diverse class profile with students from Europe, the Americas and Asia. It is a small but beautiful campus with a global footprint.

Under the leadership of Jim and a diverse global team of experts from our firm and Sophia University Institute, we took a year to put together a program to give leaders the opportunity to take a step back and become more aware of the challenges around them, and their role in shaping the future.

Analyzing the diverse challenges facing leaders, the trends of industry 4.0 and the tools needed to shape positive actions in an atmosphere of cynicism and breakdown of dialogue, we identified the approach that leaders will need to take and the skills they will need in order to shape a purposeful and inclusive future.

First, leaders need to be able to discern and identify purpose in themselves before they can give hope and direction to others. We call this heart and spirit. This would be someone like Jay and others who were inspired to found this amazing institute.

Second, leaders need to be able to deal with a diverse set of subjects at all times. Almost like how to be a modern-day Benjamin Franklin who is so talented. We call this embracive thinking.

Third, leaders need to know how to creatively build alliances and partnerships to get things done. We call this relational dynamics, and it is a lost art. This inability to build partnerships is why we cannot get a lot of common sense work done in most any country.

Fourth, leaders need to be able to operationalize this positive and collaborative approach to shape change. We call this operational leadership, which turns inspired ideas into common action. 

We named this entire method HERO, as the letters stand for each of the four concepts. And given the magnitude of challenges in this new age, don’t we need more Heroes and Heroines today? 

We are so glad that Sagamore Institute shares our concern about the future. Jay and team have come on board to support this program through helping us set up a scholarship fund that anyone with means can contribute to and invest in a Heroic leader to study in the program at Sophia University Institute. He or she could be currently working in government, social enterprises, small, medium or large companies, or in higher education, and seeking to shape common action for good.

The problems before us are complex, but our capacity for solutions is even greater. If we are able to inspire and enable a new generation of leaders, leaders who stand on the side of openness, of dignity and who are creative enough to bring warring factions together for good, then the new era of Humanity 4.0 will be a bright one. Bill Gates said that in terms of progress, humanity has made a lot progress, and I agree. Let us then take it all the way until we can see a world where there are no more poor, where the forests can breathe and the rivers still dance with the sea. Many times, it takes just a few influential leaders to change the world. Today at Sagamore Institute, we are off to a good start because we are in good company. 

Thank you.

Click on this link to the FaceBook Live Video which includes the panel discussion

 About Lawrence Chong

Lawrence shares about his experiences of helping leaders, companies, cities transform for Industry 4.0 to enable innovation through purpose and unity. His passion is in shaping purpose-driven leaders, companies and smart cities that will contribute to shaping a better world.   

He is the Co-founder and CEO of Consulus Global Network, an innovation consultancy with business management and multi-disciplinary design capabilities. Lawrence is a featured speaker at global events such as Innovation by Design, World Marketing Summit and World Brand Congress. He served as the Immediate Past President of Design Business Chamber Singapore. His thoughts on innovation and creativity appear in regional media such as FortuneNikkei Asian ReviewBusiness Insider, Business Times, Marketing MagazineNewsbase, Prestige Magazine, VTC10. In his personal capacity, he is a member of the Focolare, a movement in favor of building a united world through dialogue, economics, and politics.

About Consulus

Consulus is a global innovation consultancy with multidisciplinary business and design capabilities. Since 2004 the firm has served leaders, companies and cities in the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania to meet their innovation needs through a unifying approach that integrates business strategy, organizational development and experience design. Clients include Teo GarmentsBIBD, Goodrich Global, DST, Health City Novena, MTU and Sony.

www.consulus.com or follow us on Linkedin and Facebook

Applying our proprietary UNIFY methodology to redesign business models, organizational cultures, and brand experiences, we help our clients develop in-house capabilities so as to enable them to innovate more effectively and meet the complex challenges of the 4th industrial revolution.

Here are our FIVE SOLUTIONS FOR THE FUTURE ECONOMY

1. Business Transformation: PurposeCORE 

2. Customer Experience Design: ExperienceCORE

3. Development or Smart City Solution: PlaceCORE

4. Digital Strategy: DigitalCORE

5. Leadership Transformation: LeadershipCORE

Our custom-design solutions have allowed our clients to increase revenue by over 138%, expand to overseas markets, develop new products and intellectual property and prepare the next generation of leaders to drive and sustain high-growth. Today, Consulites serve throughout Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Consulus is a member of the Economy of Communion (EoC).

In 2013, Consulus launched World Company Day initiative to inspire companies to shape the world into a better place through daily work.