E-paper\Cover Story

By working together, we'll create better world

By Gavin Patterson | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2017-01-13 07:10

Responsible business leaders need to create environments where ideas can connect and people can collaborate

We see a lot in the media currently about division - between people, between nations, between ideologies. And it's true, the world is moving in new, and sometimes unexpected, directions, and the existing order is being disrupted. But we must remember that the exchange of ideas can be a uniting force.

Most of the world's real innovations come not from individuals laboring away in isolation, or even from "eureka" moments, but from working together. The theme of this year's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, "Responsible and Responsive Leadership" highlights the vital role collaboration must play for us to best navigate the future.

This year, British Telecommunications Plc will celebrate 180 years since the filing of the first patent for the five-needle electric telegraph - an innovation that laid the earliest foundations for today's connected world and which underpins the fourth industrial revolution.

The inventors of that device, Charles Wheatstone (a scientist) and William Fothergill Cooke (an entrepreneur) worked together to turn a great idea into what eventually became a global industry.

By working together, we'll create better world

If I think about innovations from BT's history, almost all were collaborative efforts. From the first live TV transmission across the Atlantic - a collaboration between AT&T's Bell Labs and BT Labs - to the work we're doing today on the next generation of ultrafast broadband technologies, the biggest successes have resulted from experts in different fields working together to achieve a common goal.

That's why companies today are increasingly taking a global "open innovation" approach. A major risk for large organizations, even ones such as ours who invest extensively in R&D is the "not invented here" syndrome - the chance that disruptive technologies will be ignored because they're not pioneered in your own labs.

BT's innovation scouting teams and university partnerships in the UK, Silicon Valley, the MIT tech cluster, Abu Dhabi, China and other strategic locations around the world give us a global view, bringing the most innovative technologies into our business, wherever they originate. Collaboration between business and academia is a key component of "open innovation".

As we're gathering for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, let's take a Swiss example of collaboration - CERN, with its 2,500 staff from 22 member states. The birthplace of the World Wide Web, CERN provides a global community of scientists with access to powerful facilities for experimentation, research, data processing and analysis. In 2013, the combination of these great minds and world-leading facilities in tunnels not far from Davos proved the existence of the Higgs boson, or "God particle", a fundamental building block of the universe.

There's a significant contingent of British brains involved in CERN. Britain is a melting pot of science and industry and, in a post-Brexit world, the UK will need to capitalize on its world-leading universities and build an innovation-led economy that lays a powerful foundation for future growth.

Helping universities to focus their research and enormous intellectual capital on areas that have the potential for the creation of world-leading intellectual property is a role that businesses like ours increasingly need to step up to. Sustainable future growth needs purposeful innovation that is socially and commercially relevant.

At a global level we see how things like the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement need to apply a collaborative and open approach to transcend national and political boundaries and develop innovative solutions to the big global issues of our time - extreme poverty, inequality and climate change.

And every day we see examples of the collective power of people using social media. When used responsibly, this can be a force for good, supporting people in need and improving the state of the world. The first social media platforms were born of a few creative and collaborative minds less than a decade ago. They have since been adopted by billions of people and continue to evolve in their form and function.

In 2016, Major Tim Peake, Britain's first astronaut, used social media to bring the enormity of space closer to millions of schoolchildren in the UK and around the world. The International Space Station, which he visited, is one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted and the most politically complex space exploration program ever undertaken. The largest space station ever constructed, it continues to be assembled in orbit and to date has been visited by astronauts of nearly 20 nationalities who make use of its research laboratories to improve our understanding of the world around us.

So whether we look to the inky blackness of the sky or somewhere closer to home, we see time and again the power of the exchange of ideas and of working together across boundaries.

Chance favors the connected mind; fortune favors the brave. In our modern world, responsive and responsible business leaders need to create environments where ideas can connect and people can collaborate.

The author is the Chief Executive of BT Group. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

( China Daily European Weekly 01/13/2017 page9)

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349