The need for new thinking and tools to measure impact and innovation

Anne Lise Kjaer will be a keynote speaker at the Scottish National Investment’s Bank’s annual flagship conference in Edinburgh on 4 March - ‘Investing with Impact - Innovating across Scotland’.
Anne Lise Kjaer : Why ‘Curiosity, Creativity & Collaboration Matter’ in impact investmentAnne Lise Kjaer : Why ‘Curiosity, Creativity & Collaboration Matter’ in impact investment
Anne Lise Kjaer : Why ‘Curiosity, Creativity & Collaboration Matter’ in impact investment

We asked Anne Lise to share her thoughts in advance of the conference.

Q: Could you please give me a brief summary of your background and work as a futurist, author and speaker?

A: My background is in design thinking. In 1988 I founded Kjaer Global, a visionary trend management and ideas consultancy helping organisations navigate and understand the future. We developed the 4P Innovation and Investment Model of people, planet, purpose and performance, to guide clients including Amazon, BBC, BMW, Dell, EU, E&Y, IKEA, UBS, UNICEF, the OECD, Oracle and Salesforce in their strategy and vision work.

In 2022 I joined DEFRA, the UK Government ministerial Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs. Between 2018 to 2022 I was on the IPE (International Panel of Experts) as an advisor to the Government of Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authorities (URA) and between 2005-2020 I served as an appointed Copenhagen Goodwill Ambassador.

Q: What will you be focusing on at the Scottish National Investment Bank conference?

A: My presentation on ‘Impact Investment Future(s)’ is a 4P Forecast exploring ‘Why Curiosity, Creativity & Collaboration Matters’. It covers a risk and opportunity roadmap highlighting eight core society drivers of tomorrow seen from a present vantage point. These macro trends are all observed through my 4P lens. I’ll also be speaking about Legacy Thinking. In this scenario compassionate organisations and leaders work towards long-term futures. They aim not just to be ‘best in the world’ but ‘best for the world’, while boosting performance. 

Q: What do you mean when you say it’s important for people and organisations to think beyond the day-to-day and focus on the long-term and the meaningful legacies that can be created?

A: In my opinion we need to raise our global system awareness levels and understand that everything is interconnected. This is why critical thinking skills – all driven by curiosity, creativity and collaboration – are essential leadership skills. We must rethink how we best measure ‘real impact’. If we keep yesteryears’ broken tools in the toolbox to measure the impact on tomorrow – we are not going to create the system change urgently needed to boost net zero economy. A very inspiring case is the MIT System Awareness Lab. They use a compassionate systems framework to cultivate what the researchers call ‘systems awareness orientation’.

Q: What are the biggest risks of not thinking long-term?

A: Let’s for a second imagine you are thinking like a futurist. Ask yourself: “How well do I/we – as a person, a leader, an organisation or a nation balance people and planet with a purposeful ethos to match? Is there any evidence that we cultivate the 4Ps as an interconnected whole or are we mostly focused on the short-term?”

Then perform a quick internal SWOT analysis asking: “Do my actions or investments benefit all stakeholders inside and outside my ecosystem?” Because constantly monitoring that we ‘do the right thing’ is how we foster sustainable performance.

Finally, try to think in the long-term. Imagine the impact of how actions today could impact not just 10, 20 or 50 years into the future, but the next 100 to 200 years. This is Deep Futures Thinking. Chances are that by 2125 someone who knew you – let’s say your great grandchildren – will still be alive. Then ask yourself: “What would I like them to remember me by?”

Q: Can you name one future trend that everyone should be thinking about now?

A: The Net Zero Economy and Frontier Technologies are closely intertwined. Digital is instrumental in facilitating sustainable innovation and zero emission processes, products and infrastructures. We need to carefully look at what we measure, why we measure, and how we track and monitor that the end goal has a net zero [positive] impact. And that is a great challenge for everyone.

It’s an innate human trait to count everything, to compare this year with last year’s index, or present trajectories or scenarios framed inside a strategic monetary goal. Simply because numbers and data give us the illusion of control. But this might not be the only way forward. Numbers alone do not say much about how we fare as a humanity, an organisation, or a nation on a warming planet. What about empathy and compassion, can they really be measured?

What gives me hope for the future is that I see some early signals on the horizon of a system change. I see the rise of compassionate leadership. A whole new agenda shaped by the coming generations. Already Millennials and Gen Zs are taking a lead. Soon Gen Alpha leaders and organisations will join the conversation. The first Gen Beta will see daylight in 2025 – hopefully they will live to see a reality where compassionate values inform how we interact. In this scenario the 4Ps are embedded in our educational system and curriculum worldwide as balancing 4Ps is the foundation of long-term thinking.

Promoting female leadership and encouraging women on the entrepreneurship journey is another crucial part of this system change. Female leaders can bring ‘softer’ values and visions to help create balance and encourage collaboration. I call this WE-conomics as supposed to ME-conomics. Progress is happening, but more can be done to cultivate a future where women can fully contribute and drive positive change.

Q: Please sum up how you think Scotland is performing in terms of investing with impact and innovating and where do you see opportunity?

A: It’s crucial to lead the change you want to see. What we see around the world is that many ‘smaller nations’ invest heavily in green initiatives and tech innovation because it makes good business sense.

I believe it’s an innovate or die scenario. In the Nordics where I am from, we see the seeds of investing in the long-term. But it’s complicated – there isn’t just one way to look at it. Norway has the oil – Denmark hasn’t. The 1970s oil crisis inspired the Danes to turn wind into opportunities – hence windmill innovation and recycling accelerated a green economic agenda. You can say they were innovators and early adapters. Another major industry in Denmark is water cleansing technologies. It pays off to be an innovator, rather than a follower. In brief: if you follow the leader, you’ll never be a leader yourself – just a follower.

Q: What one key piece of advice would you give to organisations when it comes to investing with impact and innovating?

A: Avoid getting lost in a numbers game. Numbers need to be tied to evidence but as the future hasn’t happened yet, we can only go by trajectories and projections. What we see is that we are not moving fast enough making change happen. Just because you can’t measure it right now on the bottom line doesn’t mean it isn’t important – on the contrary. We need new thinking and tools to raise our global systemic awareness to cultivate real impact and innovation – because everything is interconnected.

How we act today will impact tomorrow’s people, the planet, our common purpose, and therefore sustainable performance. Kjaer Global’s 4P Model was created as a simple reality check of values. It was launched to make it a little simpler to cultivate and practise ongoing positive impact – to make it a little easier to meet UN’s Global Goals. Be it leaders, employees, or customers – even nations – we all need to check in daily and ask: “How well did I/we do today; feeding into our ecosystem rather than just feeding off it?”

Find out more about the conference here.

If you would like to learn more about impact investing, Scottish National Investment Bank has partnered with Strathclyde Business School to introduce a new Impact Investor Readiness Programme – learn more here.

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