Saturday, February 23, 2008

Metacognition: The root of Innovation

Metacognition, thinking about thinking is a unique characteristic of the sapient species. This characteristic has been the catalyst of every invention and innovation know to mankind.

The World today, is teeming with innovations as never before. The past century saw more discoveries, inventions and the collection of knowledge than all the previous eons of World history combined. The first decade of the twenty-first century is turning out to challenge the twentieth century for innovations. What is unique, is that in the past century most of those innovations originated in the United States and Europe. Today, the innovations are blooming across the globe in places considered backwaters just a few decades ago.

Several articles caught my eye that illustrate this change. The first, an article about the Indian telecom company, Spice India, which has introduced India's Spice Corp launches $20 mobile phone. It is designed to provide basis phone service to people in developing nations who otherwise would not have access to communications.

Related to cell phone service is the concept of Celpay, where the cell phone is used to conduct secure banking transactions. This is especially helpful in Africa, where local banks are not available.In War-Torn Congo, Going Wireless to Reach Home - This concept has paid peace dividends in the Congo where it is being used in a disarmament program. It has even been suggested as a way to pay Iraqi and Afgan forces, avoiding corrupt officials.

Steve DeAngelis takes up a similar subject in a recent post where he writes about Tailoring Products to Emerging Markets. He expands on an article in The Economist and two earlier posts he wrote about emerging markets. The gist of what he writes is that enterprises who want to expand to a truly global market must design their products to be desirable in emerging markets. This takes a good measure of innovation and thinking outside the box.
Steve explains his company this way:

Enterra Solutions was created to primarily to help businesses achieve this goal. I created a new Enterprise Resilience Management System that can strategically align an organization by identifying the critical assets and enabling business processes that are key for sustainability and competitiveness. It then identifies the security, compliance and performance rules or policies that apply to those assets and processes. The organization is then transformed by the fusion of those business processes and best business practices or rules sets into automated business processes that are dynamically updatable to changing management and market requirements. For the first time best business practices are infused into technology in a dynamically updatable fashion –- creating an advanced integrated management and technology platform for organizations competing in international marketplaces.

What this means is that to compete,"Old Core" companies will have to seek ways to tailor their products to the emerging markets and be willing to take the steps necessary to compete with innovators in the "New Core," who see emerging markets as just down the block from their own world.

Another post by Tom Barnett, calls attention to a discovery of Some new meta-analysis from New Core China. The article, again in The Economist details how Chinese scientists discovered the main biochemical pathways to drug addiction. They accomplished this by using existing studies and Meta-analysis.

It was followed by Tom's This week's column, where he writes about his recent trip to a conference on foreign investment in the Middle East and North Africa. He leads off by noting that kinetic energy in the kind currently being used across the region, will not be the road that leads to stability. He begins:

Two weeks ago I attended an international conference on foreign investment in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region held at a Dead Sea resort in Jordan, and it was an eye-opener. All the presentations and personal networking emphasized to this national security expert-cum-senior managing director just how minor a role our military will play in bringing lasting stability to the region.

All the above posts and articles serve as buoys that mark a lane that the United States can follow. We have used our massive power in the past century to tilt the World and set the frame work that has improved the lives of billions of people. Those people now infused with hope, are creating innovations, and reaching out to those still left marginalized. The United States has an opportunity to remember back to it's own frontier development roots and seek out new opportunities across the globe by recognizing that we live in a global community, whose survival requires engagement, not isolation.

The focus in the United States on the negative aspects of globalization and continued job loss has led to protectionism becoming a hot button in the coming election. A few weeks ago a company in India rolled out a $2500 car,Indians get ready for Nano . Meanwhile, last week as I sat waiting for my car to be serviced, I read an off road magazine loaded with ads for sand buggies priced from $25,000 to $78,000. We seem to have the talent to invent, we just seem to have lost our drive to seek out new opportunities, and are still content feeding on each others self-indulgent desires. This is almost an echo of 18th century Mandarins, content to believe that their world was superior to the up-starts from the West.

All we need is a healthy dose of Metacognition, and the will, to step into the intersection where ideas meet.

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