Digital Innovation & Sustainability

Digital innovations are not only highly interesting in more technological settings, new digital technologies offer a host of possibilities in different industries and contexts. In the field of sustainability, and increasing number of people and organizations are trying to experiment with new technologies to make their business more eco-friendly. At KIN we study digital innovations in a wide variety of contexts ranging such as consulting firms, hospitals, police departments, laboratories, and tax offices.


Expert Meeting on Digital Innovation & Sustainability

To draw from our expertise of different applications of digital innovations in practice, Marlous Agterberg was invited to join an expert lunch meeting organized by duurzaambedrijfsleven.nl. This is a platform bringing news related to sustainable business.

The lunch meeting was organized by journalists of the platform and brought together various experts working in the area of digital innovation and sustainability. With their highly diverse backgrounds (e.g. from agriculture and smart cities, to energy suppliers and ICT) attendants were asked to reflect on the challenges and opportunities that digitalization offers for sustainable businesses; the topic of their next magazine.

 

Getting Digital To Help Become Sustainable

While digitalization is undeniably the keyword to major changes in today’s business world, finding ways to use new digital technologies to solve many of the societal and environment issues that we’re facing today is not that easy. Many examples of how digital technologies can create more sustainable ways of working and organizing were discussed. For instance: Blockchain technology could be used to reduce waste, improve waste recycling, and support a circular economy. In agriculture more and more farmers are experimenting with using sensors, for example to help preserve stored crops in better conditions. In the logistics industry, firms “are starting to turn to artificial intelligence (AI) computing techniques, like machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing, to streamline and automate various processes.”

It was striking to note that most examples discussed were created in the nowadays very popular settings such as livinglabs, hackatons, or pilots. Unfortunately, though often these initiatives give a lot of hope and energy, many of them also fail: Large-scale impact is often not realized because it’s so difficult to scale these initiatives beyond the confines of experimental settings.

 

New Ways of Working & Organizing

What became very clear, is that digital innovation for sustainability – and we would argue that this implies in general – requires new ways of organizing and new ways of working. Collaboration in ecosystems and platforms, reorganization of decision making strategies and power, collaboration in new types of strategic partnerships, and acceptance of higher levels of uncertainty in setting up these new types of collaboration is needed. Formulating clear missions; achievable objects to which all can commit is essential to help focus shared efforts. Many feel a strong sense of urgency to “do something” with digital technologies, but too much of a “push focus” on technology may blur the vision on why you want to do something, with whom and how. It’s a true challenge to look beyond the hypes and develop the skills and attitudes to change the way we organize and work. Mastering this is essential to make digital innovations work for a better society.