Living in the future: An interview with Professor Enrique Dans

In his new book Viviendo en el Futuro, Professor Enrique Dans helps us reflect on the present day through the lens of the future, providing us with many contradictions about modern society. He challenges us to question the status quo and use our innovative minds to drive change. We sat down with him to get some firsthand insights. This is the result.

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What is innovation?

“Innovation is a new idea, a new concept, a new imagination that gets crystallized into some sort of procedure or device. To be an innovator, you need to think about new ways of doing things,” Enrique Dans tells us.

The innovators of today share the same spirit with those of the past, such as Leonardo da Vinci or Thomas Edison. However, the perennial question remains: throughout human history, what has made an innovator more resilient in the face of technological disruption? The unequivocal answer: childlike curiosity and an open mind. 

What is the nature of work?

Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from other species. And more so each day: in the new world of work, more and more jobs focus strictly on human creativity. Those positions that require heavy physical labor or monotonous, repetitive tasks are being outsourced to robots. Our children might find it incredulous that humans even drove cars. 

We are constantly working with technology to change the nature of work, letting machines do the grunt work to save the more fulfilling roles for humans, thus improving our quality of life. In this way, innovation is forcing us to redefine our relationship with work.

As Enrique put it:

“Work should be something that we would like to do; something that contributes to something, brings you satisfaction, or fulfills a value for someone. If you are bored to death with your job, there’s probably a machine that can do it.”

How can we create an environment that motivates individuals to innovate?

Enrique starts with some disclaimers.

“As innovators, we need to understand that the system right now is deeply flawed. Innovation should be conceived as something for the next world, because today’s world is old and filled with structures that do not work.”

What are those structures? 

We have a physical world that works with boundaries and borders, and an online world that totally ignores them. This allows companies to hack the system, selling products in one place, filing taxes in another, and physically existing in some other place. This system is unfair—primarily because it can take advantage of countries where workers have less rights—and as a global society, we are starting to suffer the consequences.

But as Enrique says, our current system isn’t equipped to offer an easy solution.

“If we allow ourselves to imagine a tax system that is universal—no matter where you make your money, where you sell your products or services—that would make a lot of problems disappear; but that goes against sovereignty.” Borders prohibit any kind of universal guarantee.

The same goes for universal basic income. If everyone’s basic needs were met, it would give everyone an equal starting point, affording us a precious opportunity to study, retrain, create, innovate, and, ultimately, create more wealth. But our current world presents many barriers to such a thing, and we’re far from changing the world so profoundly.

What can we do, then?

One solution designed for our current world, according to Enrique, is tech-driven collaboration. “Educational systems still simulate and promote competition. Instead, we should focus on promoting collaboration. The most innovative ecosystem in the history of mankind is open-source collaboration.” If we use the internet to share free knowledge and work hand-in-hand with others around the globe, we promote innovation and creation.

Another solution—for those who have the resources—is to innovate without an end goal. “Think about Larry Page and Sergey Brin,” Enrique prompts. “When they created Google, they had no business model. Believe it or not, they didn’t know how they were going to make money. That happened later.” Their only aim was to create value, and when you create value, you will always reap the benefits.

How should we approach innovation and the future world of work?

First things first: “The new generation should understand things—not memorize things.”

Enrique believes that some re-evaluation is in order for the education sector, because faced with massive amounts of information, future students and graduates must be able to use critical-thinking skills to identify high-quality information from trustworthy sources—and to deeply understand the information they consume.

On the other hand, business leaders must take on an innovation mindset.

There are two types of managers in the workplace: the ones that cling to the previous, established ways of working, and the ones who are willing to try anything—sometimes risking time, money, and effort. We should all aim to be the latter. 

Enrique ends with a tidbit of advice for current students, especially those at IE. As you pursue your education, you must keep two things in mind: work towards a role that you would love to do, at all costs, and don’t forget that you have the power to drive change.

What are you doing today to drive innovation?

Below you can watch the entire exclusive interview.

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Viviendo en el Futuro is a call for activism. The author, Enrique Dans, envisions a future worth living, where cities are healthier and more efficient, and machine learning has completely redefined the innovation landscape. He also examines issues in today’s world such as politics or the climate emergency. 

An English version of his latest book is currently in the works. For more of his future-forward insights, check out his blog.

Special thanks to Enrique Dans for his time and insights. Thank you to Oday Almajed, Nalisha Men, and Cristina Bejarano for their invaluable contributions.

Black and white JudithWith proud roots in the Philippines, Judith San Juan is a digital marketing professional pursuing her Master in Visual & Digital Media at HST. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, playing with her dog, and creating videos of her travels. She proudly serves as Audiovisual Guru at Rewire Mag.

 

laura author picMadrileña by birth, but a cultural chameleon due to her life’s circumstances, Laura Millan Povedano studied Chinese and Business before pinning down her passion and is now a student in the Master in Visual & Digital Media. She is a proud collaborator for Rewire Mag.