How to Implement an Integrated Business and Financial Model Using Innovation and Systems Design Thinking to Solve Complex Problems

by | Dec 5, 2016 | High Impact Investing, Inclusive Innovation, Integrated Capital, Social Innovation

We have many new exciting technologies available today. It is certainly a wonderful time to be an entrepreneur. Individuals can rapidly design and manufacture customized products using tools such as agile software development and 3D printing. We have the cloud, digital technology, advanced security technology, wireless technologies, new SAAS (software as a service) offerings that seem to appear daily, new ways to rapidly network with people on the internet. We have deep machine learning, artificial intelligence, advanced data analytics for big data, CRISPR (a new technique using bacterial processes to make changes to DNA), synthetic genomics, the microbiome (the microorganisms that reside in our bodies), solar, wind, and other novel alternative energy systems, nanotechnology, advanced materials development.   You get the idea. It is a continuous stream of innovation these days.


The question is how can we adapt and utilize these new innovations to help us solve today’s complex social, health and environmental problems? We have polluted waters, air pollution, toxic chemicals on our land, extreme poverty around the world, uneven income distribution, poor educational options for large numbers of people around the world, global warming, aging societies, obesity, dramatic increases in immune disease and cancer….


The good news is that people are more aware than ever about these issues and people are coming together to organize efforts to tackle these problems. Tackling complex problems require cooperation with all relevant stakeholders, focus, intention, aligned incentives and significant resources. It can be a slow, iterative process.


When we have as many big breakthrough technologies as we have today, large money flows tend to migrate to areas where people feel they have the greatest and quickest chance for large financial returns. The structure of many investment products encourages this behavior. However, we often end up with bubbles this way and when bubbles break it is painful for everyone, especially for those people that are the most vulnerable members of our society. Ironically, we tend to realize as the bubbles start popping that much of our early enthusiasm was often misplaced in many areas and the real sustainable businesses that more effectively solve many problems tend to evolve more slowly and carefully.


Does this mean that we will not earn adequate financial returns if we are slower, more deliberate, and more efficient with our planning for the businesses we choose to develop? Of course this is not the case. A more sustainable, integrated business and financial approach more naturally aligns ethics, business and financial incentives with all stakeholders. It does take discipline to walk away from the “herd” when it is the most exuberant. It is far easier to do this when you have a purpose for your business that really matters. That is when we are the most passionate, the most innovative and creative, and the most determined.


At Rainbow Bridge Advisors, we are the most inspired by a systems design process inspired by nature. The principles apply to almost every scenario that you can imagine where you are working to find harmony or balance with complex problems and systems. These principles describe efficient planning, iterative design, and complex inter-dependencies and inter-relationships in our environment. It is a highly integrated approach. Do any of these things sound familiar to you?   We have lean manufacturing, lean start-up principles and systems based design engineering… If we cut down the trees, how do we breathe? How do we absorb the CO2? If we eat nothing but processed food with too much sugar and salt, we get numerous health problems. If we have schools and communities near to where fracking is occurring, we get water pollution and other health risks. If we have poor education and fewer economic opportunities, we get crime, violence and drug problems.


It is very transparent to most people these days that we need a fresh approach to solve problems in a way where all life can co-exist in a more harmonious and balanced way. Many people blame capitalism for many of our problems, that it is somehow greedy and only benefits very few entitled people and in the process destroys the world around us. People are the problem. Capitalism is not the problem. We live in a complex system and capitalism needs to be applied in an ethical way that helps to restore and regenerate these complex systems. Systems based design principles applied in an integrated way to business and financial processes are the only path forward to achieve these goals.