Let’s go to Denmark. The tiny little fairytale country in calm and quite Scandinavia.
When a small country like that suddenly needs a public counsel for disruption and an ambassador to technology companies it makes sense.
It’s just like any company should have a R&D team and a highly ranked person championing the digital and technological challenges and possibilities. Because it’s long since we all began to live and breathe digital services like Facebook and worship products as our iPhone.
We work all day long in the world of Google, buying our stuff through Amazon, watching Netflix and chilling when traveling to those Airbnb apartments that we get to on the backseats of Uber rides while listening to music from Spotify.
Those are all companies that utilize exponential technologies reaching almost infinite numbers of people with their ingenuity and create value in a more future-oriented way. And a very Silicon Valley-like way.
But can this model for innovation and disruption be exported outside?
Let’s stay in tiny Denmark for a while. Now they also have a franchise of the prominent Singularity University. The American concept has opened an office in Copenhagen in the form of a so-called innovation hub. At Singularity the mantra is to solve ‘humanity’s grand challenges’ with exponential technologies.
And if there ever was anyone capable of staging the endless possibilities that comes with technology in a fascinating way it is Singularity.
So that’s just great. You’ll need all the inspiration and aspiration there is to be innovative.
So in this awesome fairytale country that gave the world Lego, Noma and Hans Christian Andersen they even have a special commission named Siri. Yes, very originally inspired by the artificial assistant from Silicon Valley juggernaut Apple.
In other words; Denmark is ready for disruption, innovation and exponential growth. And Silicon Valley.
But can you fit Silicon Valley into wonderful Copenhagen? Is it possible to copy the Silicon Valley recipe for a radically different environment? Be it Denmark or for that matter Berlin, London or Paris?
It’s a bit like trying to recreate your grandmother’s secret recipe for tartlets. You’ll never come close to that magical feeling from childhood. And maybe that’s exactly the whole point. The world does not necessarily need more tartlets, but something completely new. And that is precisely what technology brings with it — new opportunities.
Therefore it seems extremely uninspiring and uncreative to import a recipe no matter how wonderful it is in its original surroundings. that can put handling of the future in a formula and be disseminated to everyone and everything.
In the Valley they call it scaling. And if there is something they invented more than anything else, it is probably the model of scaling. It’s both impressive and admirable. That’s why we all use their products.
In Silicon Valley everything is being made under the banner of making the world a better place, and it works extremely well. So well there is a heavy pull towards that way of thinking in a lot of other countries. Just like the kind of cultural imperialism coming from out of Hollywood — when everything springs from the same, everything will also be soaked in the same culture and values. Development of ideas, design, language, business models, even the way to engage with the world, will be the same.
But if we all have the same standpoint and starting point, it’s hard to bring anything new to the table. Which is needed in an increasingly competitive market.
They know that very well in Silicon Valley. That’s why they have a strong tradition of obtaining patents. And that’s why they have a culture of promoting inventions as the genius of individuals. To protect and celebrate intellectual property and the original in order to incentivise creators.
They also know the importance of being creative in China. Notably the Chinese way with an almost reversed approach. They’re not that concerned with the role of the individual in the creation of new. They also have a very relaxed approach to copying and mixing existing inventions in to new original combinations. The genius is not to invent the ingredients, but to put them together in new and creative ways.
WeChat is a nice example of that. Here the Chinese owners aggressively mix and match a sea of products that otherwise operate as independent businesses and services in the US and the more international market. You can compare the Chinese chat app with both the social layer of Facebook, user-to-user market as on eBay and the everything store of Amazon. You can also book tickets and taxis and set up bank loans and use it for payments. And of course you will also be able to find a new friend or lover through the app by shaking your phone.
This is not to say which of the two philosophies is best. We will probably never know. And that’s exactly the point. The important thing is that they have found the models that works well in their own unique environment. And both models are especially suited to a world that has become unpredictable and therefore don’t reward reproduction of ideas, but rather the production of them.
The Americans have found a way. The Chinese another. It would be innovative if the Denmarks of the world also found their a way where the ingredients come from the nearby environment and cultural traditions.
Philosophical, ethical and humanistic intellectual issues are already causing a lot of discussions in governments, organisations and society. We as humans have to figure out where we’re headed and how we will deal with exponential technologies when the effects of exponentiality becomes clear. Not just in music, hotels, transportation or social networks. But in artificial intelligence, robotics and cyborgborgs.
Now that’s an open market to conquer. And that will make the world a better place. The Old World of Europe should have an advantage in thinking and acting democracy, politics, philosophy and humanities with a healthy critical perspective.
The whole point of innovation is to be innovative. And original. Also in your approach.