Why Transformation Design is Needed for the Future

September 2015, by So-Young Kang

I had the privilege of attending the Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC) 2015 meetings in Dalian this year for my 2nd time representing the Young Global Leaders. This meeting is fondly known as ‘Summer Davos’ as it’s one of the key WEF meetings held each year where leaders around the world come together to discuss the most pressing topics in the economy, environment, culture, technology and people. This year, there were over 1,600 world leaders from 86 countries who came together. Given the number of topics being discussed and shared across the 3 days, there were 3 main themes that stood out to me.

1. Disruption has become the new norm.
The entire world is being disrupted at a pace we have never seen before largely enabled by ubiquitous connection and technology. Even traditional industries like education, healthcare and finance are being disrupted. While business and political leaders scramble to find solutions and react to these disruptions, I believe that this type of disruption is the new norm.

We need to start asking different questions and evolve from ‘What should we be doing about x disruption?’ to ‘How do we build the right mindsets and capabilities to be able to adapt quickly to change and to new global norms?’

2. Being human is and will continue to be a major topic with the proliferation of technology.
This year, there was a whole track dedicated to ‘Being Human’ where artists, designers, scientists, business people and educators came together to discuss the impact of technology on the fundamentals of humanity and what it means to be human.

With live displays of new technologies like virtual reality, digital experiences, and robots that can replace humans, then what value do humans play? What skills will be required when machines start to take over manual tasks?

3. Inclusiveness is major driver of innovation.
Innovation is now the new buzz word. Everything is about innovation. But how do you innovate in a traditional industry? How do you change mature processes and systems? What does it mean to innovate?

One ingredient for innovation is inclusiveness and looking beyond traditional customers, markets and partners. When we take a different perspective on who is ‘included,’ it greatly broadens the solution space.

One of my favorite demonstrations of this was the innovative experience that came from a collaboration between artists and musicians cutting across history from traditional to digital.

Dana Leong, Composer and Musician, Tateo Sound, USA; Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum - Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, People's Republic of China 2015. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell
Image from left to right: Yumi Kurosawa (koto), Dana Leong (electronic musician and composer), Hidekichi Shigemoto (Japanese sumie charcoal painter), Marton Gabor (digital artist). 

I loved how the starting point was not about what we have today, but about what we want to create; and how to include multiple perspectives and talents to create something new and innovative. This is about creative collaboration.

Sessions with Jack Ma of Alibaba about future-proofing the internet economy and the important role the internet could play in creating global standards, values, and cultural norms.

The global story that keeps unfolding continues to strengthen our case for the need for Transformation Design (TD). Transformation Design is a human-centered approach to solving complex issues in an uncertain, constantly changing environment.

Our work on global leadership and innovation since 2010 forms the foundation for Transformation Design (TD). It lays out what we call the ‘X Factor’ of what’s required to lead in this new global age. In today’s context of disruption, digitization and democratization, we believe this new ‘X Factor’ for organizations is about being human, creative and adaptive.

Check out and download this year’s report as part of our Global Leadership and Innovation Project (GLIP).

5 key themes

For more images of the event, please check out our Facebook album.

Related content:
Case for Transformation Design
Design Thinking 3.0: Transformation Design