Innovate or Die: Lessons Learned from Silicon Valley’s Global Innovation Summit

By Brinkley Warren

These past days I have been participating in the Global Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley which brought together a wide range of innovation ecosystem builders from around the World, and even had the great joy of meeting the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000 which I enjoyed so much as a kid and has been a major influence on my sense of humor, and thus — my leadership style.

The conversations and connections and lessons learned are ample and varied, but I wanted to share with you the big idea that I have come away with, which is that innovation in practice is more than the sum of its parts, and to produce it effectively, it’s about putting all of the pieces together. This may come off as a banal platitude for the most experienced and successful innovators out there, but my sense is that it’s easier said than done.

So this is my main idea from the Global Innovation Summit — I think we are at a critical juncture for global innovation, and therefore I created this cartoon in homage of Ben Franklin’s famous Join or Die cartoon. The main idea being that when it comes to building our global innovation ecosystem, we must work together, and that includes thinking holistically about all of the ingredients of innovation. And so…as a firm, as a government agency, as an NGO it’s time that we must, “Innovate, or Die!”

Copyright, 2014

Copyright, 2014

The importance of innovation is paramount for our global society, and all over the World there are governments and entire regions hoping to harvest some of their own lean startup gold, to help their city to grow wealthy, to grow jobs,  and to capture and retain global talent by organizing innovation hubs and trying to build what amounts to their global talent brand for Generation-Z and the coming onslaught of digital-native-knowledge workers. Life is in the making, and making is in demand.

We are living in the age of creative destruction as I wrote in my thesis over 5 years ago, and it makes sense that everyone is looking to innovation as the savior. Why? It’s simple. Jazz.

Innovation represents the creation of the future on the fly, and we are living in exponentially accelerating and transformative times; with the rise of digitization and the democratization of the means of production and consumption — the rallying cry is to sustain continuous growth. To Innovate and Thrive, or Not to Innovate; and Die — that is the question.

Every region wants to strengthen their own innovation ecosystem, their own miniature Silicon Valley. Singapore is spending money to make it happen, so is Hong Kong — both claim to be the “gateway to China” and are seeking to incentivize homegrown innovation talent. New Orleans and the Idea Village are putting their own flavor on the “city as a start-up” model and of course so is Las Vegas with the Zappos-sponsored Downtown Project. Every one is seeking to harness creative serendipity, talent, and high-growth value creation.

A major challenge is that to truly innovate, you must put all of the pieces together — thinking holistically and taking an integral approach to driving innovation. At LeanMonitor we are focused on evidenced-based innovation initiatives, but for any initiative to be successful — all of the pieces must be synthesized. I have written about innovation ecosystems-building in the past and my experience studying coral-reefs under Dr. James Porter at the Odum School of Ecology. (see the article:

Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is an output of the harmony realized from a symphony of co-creators, people, processes, and systems. Open-collaboration is only a beginning. As with any ecosystem, we require both quantity and quality — diverse and dense resources, habitats and people. Ecosystems require infrastructure and energy and capital, both social and financial. Culture eats strategy for breakfast, and communication is central to alignment. Catalyzing and managing innovation effectively requires collective vision bordering on hallucination.

It’s not just countries and regions seeking to innovate or die, but some firms have been around for over 150 years and starting to realize that they are facing their own “Kodak Moment” and that in order to survive, they cannot do nothing, they cannot be complacent and hope that the creative destruction of their business slows down or goes away. We are amidst a global revolution, an age of collaboration as the socio-cultural-economy evolves and transforms itself, leaving entire industries in ruin, and new entrants such as Instagram easily cannibalizing the likes of Kodak with far fewer resources and less than 10 employees compared to the thousands who used to work at Kodak. The smart firms are already seeking to avoid this fate by creatively destroying themselves to some extent.

To do it right, and to take the first baby steps — we must first come to see innovation for what it truly is — an integral process. To innovate and thrive, we must not only strengthen the various components, but seek to integrate them further, to build interconnectedness, and holocracy to support this harmonious rising of the tide that we all are hopeful for. What is crystal clear is this: the stronger and more integrated our emerging global innovation ecosystem becomes and the faster it grows, the more our species and our planet will thrive into the future. If YOU are a global leader with the fate of the future in your hands, now is the time, Innovate, or Die.


What do you think, any other components that should be a part of the innovation snake?

MST3k really remains one of the most innovative TV series ever created, thanks Joel!: