We heard about terrible challenges at The Daily Beast Innovators Summit—but also about effective solutions. From Audi's green future to a drug-free Colombia, see our Cheat Sheet of the weekend's innovative ideas. Plus, our photo gallery of the event.
Call to Arms
A Plan to Restore the Economy?
While the Summit's economic panel was divided on the greatest threat to America—FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, former U.S. Budget Director Peter Orszag, and Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz cited jobs, while historian Niall Ferguson, philanthropist Peter Peterson and Silver Lake Co-Founder Glenn Hutchins cited fiscal irresponsibility—a consensus began to gel around the idea of packaging a short-term infusion together with a long-term plan. "We behave like we can't walk and chew gum at the same time," says Peterson. Of the stimlus, Orszag said, "It would be a mistake to enact a second package," unless we created a long-term roadmap alongside one. Hutchins, mindful that reform often comes from crises, issued a call to arms: Groups like those at the Summit have to "shout from the rooftops."
Encourage Numerous Improbable Experiments
Massive federal spending goes only so far, given that more and more of the economy is being driven from the bottom up by individual entrepreneurs, says Vinod Khosla, perhaps the world's single most successful venture capitalist. “Most significant changes that happen in society will happen from the bottom up, little phenomena that start locally and then multiply exponentially," says Khosla. "Once you do that math, the exponential multiplication results in dramatic change.” He belives what's needed are government policies that encourage more "shots and goals." Citing Google and SKS Microfinance, we "only need 10 out of 10,000 to succeed to have a completely different world," he adds. On immigration, he later told The Daily Beast that current U.S. policy-- while it certainly could improve, particularly for immigrants with special skills and advanced degrees--is working in a certain way, even if "by accident": Fifty percent of Californians are immigrants.
Lessons From Finland
Turning Catastrophe Into Innovation
In 1991, the Soviet Union disappeared, taking with it 25 percent of Finland's foreign trade. The Finns responded with a sense of urgency, concentrating on technology, science, and education. Innovation turned a national catastrophe into a renaissance. Yet on a panel on how to change the equation, with business leaders ranging from Shane Robison, HP's chief strategy and technology officer, to JetBlue founder David Neeleman, innovation guru John Kao said that the U.S. remains in a state of denial. Act like Finland, Kao says: Use the current crisis to create a new set of skills.
Innovation's Bright New Generation
Where are the best new ideas coming from? For Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, among the entrepreneurial millennial generation " all of the action is in social innovation." This group is developing "all of the models for sustainable growth," generating for-profit, socially conscious, global ideas. By helping these young entrepreneurs, says Dorsey, we'll create companies with global reach.
Another Path to a Zero-Carbon Footprint
The future of automobiles in a more energy efficient world is looking... light. "Dramatic weight reduction—that's the key to reducing energy consumption," says Johan de Nysschen, the president of Audi of America. More important than developing hybrid vehicles or ones that use alternative fuels, creating lightweight materials--inspired by nature--is key to moving the auto industry as close as possible to a zero-carbon footprint, de Nysschen says. "This technology will take this whole industry forward into the future," he said. The goal is still far off, but "innovation starts with a vision."
The Power of You
One of the most important rules of innovation, says legendary fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, is to know what you do well—and stay true to yourself. "If you create a product, the only thing that should really motivate you is the quality of what you offer. You have to believe in what you sell. For a time, everybody would sell everything at any price, there was a pollution. It was too much everything." Equally important, she says: Stay curious, stay open, and stay engaged. "I sleep with my iPad. I [use] Twitter," she says. "I am very engaged through my work, I'm very engaged to women in general, I'm very engaged making women feel confident, I think all women are strong, some woman are afraid to show their strength, so I'm very engaged in that."
Disrupting Your Way to a Revolution
Sean Parker loves the word " disruption." He uses it non-pejoratively; in fact, it is a good thing, a positive, a delight. "We're going to cause some disruption," said the Napster and Facebook co-founder, whose digitally brilliant co-panelists included NBC's Lauren Zalaznick, advertising pacesetter Lori Senecal, and HP's Chief Marketing Officer Michael Mendenhall. The consensus: Stop pretending that the old rules still apply; invent new and creative ways to make the technology work for you; and locate and identify the essential problem that is worth solving, not the ones that don't matter in the end. For example, Parker, portrayed by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, decribed his new company, Spotify—a desktop-based music streaming service that gives users access to millions of songs, yet requires them to make a purchase should they choose to take their tracks mobile—thusly: "You have no choice. We've got you by the balls, you'll have to become a subscriber." Disruptive, indeed.
Solving Problems Door-to-Door
Sergio Fajardo became the mayor of Medellin, Colombia, the old-fashioned way: with shoe-leather. He won the job after four years of walking the city, meeting its residents and knocking on doors. Once in office, he took up the longstanding efforts to fight Medellin's overwhelming drug violence. His remarkably successful strategy, with public works projects, education reform, and other ambitious plans, steered people away from the drug trade and slashed the murder rate. "You can't diminish violence without providing opportunity," he says. For the kids of Medellin, that opportunity is built upon the dignity and self-esteem that the city's newly constructed high-tech libraries provide. "If you go there, the kids will take you to the library and they will explain it to you," explains Fajardo. The message, he says, is "knowledge, education, and the ability of our people to be part of a fair society." But to get there, "you have to give opportunities."
How To Fight a Counterinsurgency
"You can't use a fly swatter on an epidemic," says Connie Rice, co-director of The Advancement Project in Los Angeles, a broad-based effort to address rampant gang violence in greater Los Angeles. Rice attacks the problem from all sides, via a "complex vector-controlled ecosystem." She co-opted gang members with jobs, and reclaimed parks, a hotbed of gang activity, via midnight family events. These two initiatives led to an immediate 57 percent drop in homicides. Broadly, she tries to undermine the allure by making gang membership "less sexy." "We're not going to get rid of gangs," she says, "but we can get rid of gang violence."
Lessons in Plywood
General McChrystal's Leadership Lab
In his first public interview since being relieved of his Afghanistan command, General Stanley McChrystal laid out his vision for how to lead people in the 21st century. "A combination of uncoordinated good," says McChrystal, who now teaches at Yale, "does not result in a general good." The former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command described what he calls "plywood leadership." In Afghanistan, he built-out his headquarters with plywood to remind everyone, "You're not here to enjoy but to achieve." He then added that the symbolism carried to teamwork: "If you look at plywood, it's pieces of mid-grade wood… but when you glue them together they have great strength."