We need a new mindset to advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and smart city initiatives

We need to embrace financially-driven, technology-centric solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as investing in new solutions.

Visionary CEO Satya Nadella used empathy and collaboration to reboot Microsoft and kickstart a $250billion turnaround. “The CEO is the curator of an organisation’s culture,” he noted in an October 2017 article for Fast Company. “We have evolved from a know-it-all culture to a learn-it-all culture.”

Nadella transformed Microsoft with this new mindset. Now other CEOs, thought leaders and public officials are opening up to new ways of building solutions and incorporating 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their planning, and there needs to be resources and thought leadership to advance on all fronts if the 2030 timelines to realise the SDGs and their underlying targets are to be met.

Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind presents some important ideas that advance the mindset necessary to achieve the SDGs, ideas that are also essential to realising smart cities. On their own, all the brilliant technological solutions in the world will not create the world we want for the next generation.

Pink notes that the tools of the past have been effective in advancing the transformative growth and outcomes witnessed across the globe since the 19th century. But to succeed in the future – to create the mindset to address our greatest challenges – these critical skills must be balanced and complemented with Pink’s six components: story, symphony, empathy, play, meaning and design.

Investors, smart city champions and 21st century companies need to embrace financially-driven, technology-centric solutions. And they need to do so with a whole new mind.

Investing in solutions with a whole new mind

Current investment models do not robustly serve the 17 UN SDGs or smart cities. Directing investment toward the solutions to realise the vision and scaling of smart cities and the 17 UN SDGs takes a whole new mind.

“In the real world, money flows to the ideas that are the most convenient to find or the most familiar, not necessarily those that are the best,” Ross Baird writes in his book The Innovation Blind Spot. “Simply put, the blind spots in the way we innovate – the way we nurture, support and invest – make all our other problems even harder to solve.”

“Innovation blind spots” persist and keep money flowing to investments that do not realise the greatest returns or address real local and global challenges. Thought leaders such as Baird make inroads in investment circles to advance a more holistic approach to deal flow generation, evaluation and management.

Pink’s concepts of “symphony” and “empathy” are critical to turning around the current investment paradigm where, for example, a mere 2 per cent of venture funding goes to companies led by women. We now see innovative models for addressing blind spots that have historically impeded investment in smart cities and the 17 UN SDGs, and these advances must be accelerated.

“People who hope to thrive in the conceptual age must understand the connections between diverse, and seemingly separate, disciplines,” Pink writes. “They must know how to link apparently unconnected elements to create something new.”

The right goals, data and metrics for measuring impact

Research demonstrates that companies focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) as their guiding principles achieve solid and even greater returns for their bottom lines [1]. As ESG-guided portfolios and impact investments mature and more data becomes available, investors are realising there is no trade-off, no false choice, between returns and advancing sustainable solutions [2]. 

Measuring what matters is core to understanding investments in the context of the 17 UN SDGs and the best solutions for smart cities. This means blending a goal-setting system of objectives and key results (OKRs), for example, with a new mindset as well.

In Measure What Matters, John Doerr shares a broad range of first-person, behind-the-scenes case studies from the likes of Bono and Bill Gates to demonstrate the focus, agility and explosive growth OKRs have spurred at so many great companies and social enterprises.

To achieve the 17 SDGs and smart cities initiatives, using the right tools, such as OKRs, is essential. For meaningful advancement, consistent approaches to capturing data and analysis are critical to alignment, comparing results across verticals and the SDGs. There are now robust tools available to collect and analyse the data that fuels OKRs.

For example, the Turnkey Group has developed tools to help investors, companies and cities realise gains, from capturing the data needed to measure what matters. The Turnkey Group has created SDG-aligned modules as well as customised solutions to save companies millions, as well as to support investment groups in the areas of compliance and other governance for their portfolios. Smart cities also need to track results in a uniform manner to accelerate test and learn as well as realise results.

Achieving the 17 UN SDGs by 2030 and advancing smart cities to realise meaningful benefits to citizens and the planet requires all of us to think and act with a whole new mind, and a whole new sense of purpose and focus in setting goals and tracking results.

2030 is just over a decade away. If not now when?

At The Disruptive Factory, we work with companies, thought leaders and investors committed to the 17 UN SDGs, scaling innovation and strong returns for investors.

Find out more at thedisruptivefactory.com

References:[1] www.cambridgeassociates.com/press-releases/new-impact-investing-performance-data-show-impact-funds-private-real-assets-arena-delivered-returns-par-similar-funds-no-environmental-social-objectives/

[2] https://news.yahoo.com/does-esg-investing-produce-better-213300024.html