May 10, 2017

11/05/2017: Two legs that make humanity move forward

by Christophe Palletier

The tremendous progress that the species has been since its apparition on Earth is not the result of just good luck

Christophe Palletier

Two qualities have driven our success: innovation and collaboration. There is no doubt that these two characteristics will be essential for our further ability to adapt and overcome future challenges. In this regard, the current dynamics bring some good news and some not-quite-as-good-yet news as well.

The good news is that innovation is probably livelier than it has ever been in the past. There is not a day that goes by without hearing of some new idea being brought into action somewhere in the world.

They will not all succeed, but in the grand scheme of innovation that is the price to pay to benefit from the ones that will make it. Every problem and every limitation is an invitation for a solution and always better ones too.

Since the human brain started to analyse its surroundings and look for better tools to deal with it, innovation has been driven by a number of rather stable incentives:

1. Survival or just live better and longer
2. Reducing physical labour
3. Increasing efficiency, which reduces waste
4. Helping communication
5. Increasing mobility and speed
6. Offering more leisure and entertainment
7. Making some people a little wealthier

Many of the future challenges fall in these categories, and number one and three are probably the most critical ones in our dealings with the environment.

If innovation is doing well, the second leg – collaboration - is not at its optimum. In this column, I have expressed my wish to see more collaboration, cooperation and exchanges, several times in the past.

Although it does not always appear that way, collaboration is one of the cornerstones of life. Just look at all the examples of symbiosis. It occurs everywhere.

It is what an ecosystem is all about; it is a combination of all sorts of individuals that are interdependent for their survival. In the agricultural sector, we know that collaboration happens in the soil; we know it also happens inside the roots of legumes and in the food sector we know how the bacterial interacts with our digestive system.

For all these reasons, collaboration should receive as much attention and praise as innovation. After all, good innovations are usually the result of active collaboration. Many ideas come from interacting with others, by listening to what they know, to their experience and through the feedback they give to our own knowledge and experiences.

In my opinion, the risk for sub-optimal collaboration is the result of an always-increasing emphasis on competition. Competition is good, as I have written here before, but the key is to find a good balance between competition and collaboration.

In nature, both coexist but with a slight difference with the human attitude. In nature, the competition is about survival, but the winner takes only what it needs. The “always more” concept does not apply. It is just about “always enough”.

If you look at it, it provides a sound basis for a sustainable system, as long as supply can follow that is.

And that was the original idea of agriculture: finding a way of adjusting food supply to the needs of the community.

Agriculture rebalanced the relation between collaboration and competition. This original principle is somehow too often overlooked. To look at it from the triple bottom thinking, there is another analogy with sustainability or the lack of it.

The strong emphasis on competition is mostly the result for always more financial profitability. Social and environmental issues are the result of the imbalance with the other two bottom lines.

Read the full article, HERE.

The Global Miller
This blog is maintained by The Global Miller staff and is supported by the magazine Milling and Grain
which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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