‘Unleash the power of innovation in your career’ says ITC Executive Director to graduates of the Geneva Business School

5 October 2018
ITC News
Keynote speech delivered by ITC Executive Director Arancha González at the Geneva Business School graduation ceremony
Geneva, Switzerland

Good evening,

I am honored and humbled to be here today and share this special moment of your graduation with you and your beloved ones.

Congratulations! I am excited for you because our planet needs Geneva Business School kind of leaders, communities require a Geneva Business School brand of innovation, governments demand global perspectives with a Geneva Business School training, and businesses need Geneva Business School acumen and international savvy.

It doesn’t seem possible that I was part of a similar crowd a little over 25 years ago. I could not have known when I was occupying your seat the crazy and unexpected journey I would take over the course of soon 3 decades, but what I do know is that everything I am doing now professionally started in university.

It is in university that I started developing the communication skills that would equip me for the job of tomorrow, and it is during my student years that I jumped into economic issues on the front pages of El Pais, The Financial Times and Le Monde. Yes! I mean real papers, the kind you turn and leaves ink on your fingers.

I emphasize the ink because, spoiler alert! Don’t be alarmed! Some of you will have careers based on a trending hashtag #trade #business #diplomacy #markets or probably something slightly sexier like #fashion or #music. I do not know. The world of business is vast. You will all do different things. But whatever you are doing, whatever the hashtag of your career would be, make sure it is driven by principles.

First, respect and invest in the prefix “multi.” Put it next to any positive word and it will make your life and career better. Multiculturalism, multilateralism, multilingualism…or even better multimillionaire.

Joke aside, multi means many, numerous…diversity. Respect for diversity is foremost if you want to succeed in today’s world. Our differences are a source of prosperity. They enable us to generate new ideas, anticipate market trends and be thought leaders in our chosen markets. Do not let yourselves be dragged into “me-first” or “mine and not others”. Isolation makes us poorer, weaker, less free.

Having a diverse workforce will help you better understand and adapt to the societies in which you operate and equip you to understand today’s global marketplace, and creatively respond to your future clients’ needs. Diversity should not be feared but rather leveraged, respected and appreciated in business, in the workplace, in the street, at home.

Second, be innovative. Unleash the power of innovation in your career. There are plenty of people who confuse innovation with creativity. However, there is one very substantial difference between the two. Creativity is an idea – perhaps an amazing, life-changing one – but it remains an idea. Innovation, however, is the implementation of that idea. The key to innovation is implementation! Theodore Levitt, some of you might know, sums it up the best, “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”

New and better technology came along, and you embraced it, because you knew it would better suit your needs. The same applies to your career. If you aren’t consistently striving to improve upon the status quo, you will quickly find yourself out-of-date and at risk of replacement.

To become more innovative, you must choose the innovation mindset not the fixed mindset. The fixed mindset believes that your intelligence is static and will always hold you back.

The growth mindset, however, believes that the degree you obtained today is just the starting point for development.  Intelligence can be developed which leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of obstacles, use effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. 

Make technology your innovation tool, but always with a purpose.

Use it to reduce CO2 emissions and help fight against the most serious threat to humanity: climate change.

Use it to help connect the base of the economic pyramid to prosperity.

Use it to help us reach a world which does not discriminate against women in the workplace, in politics or in society.

Use it to break social stereotypes and breach religious and cultural divides.

In the end, it all comes down to purpose and relevancy. Technology, best practices, and business needs are changing every day. Just as your future company needs to stay on the cutting edge, so do you! If you choose not to embrace the innovation mindset, you risk going the way of the video tape and the typewriter – extinct, defunct, outdated, and a casualty of progress. If you choose to embrace the innovation mindset, the world is your oyster.

Third, master the art of losing. Doesn’t that sound better than saying “embrace failure?” I am sure you are tired of people telling you to embrace failure. What is embraceable about failure for earth’s sake? Yet I must be honest, you will fail and you will lose.

But, instead of feeling like a failure, you should feel challenged to strap on your boots and learn more, learn better, just learn. You cannot do it alone. It is ok to rely on all your sources of safety and security: your best friend and sounding board, your achievements, your discipline to keep pushing through, your perfectionism, your drive to always succeed. After all, only successful and intelligent people can build a solid support system that they could run to when they fail, making losing a learning tool, a mastered art.

Oh! and a good sense of humour wouldn't hurt either. At the end of the day, the best factor of how comfortable we are with ourselves is our ability to laugh at ourselves.

So, take the rest of the week off and come tomorrow, or may be Monday because I know tomorrow you will be partying, don’t walk, run and change the world for good!

Have a great evening and a greater future.