Rapid technological innovations, various forms of globalisation and deep shifts in societal and cultural paradigms are producing complex effects and feedbacks. They confront us with conflicting evidences. To manage those and to extract country or corporate competitive advantage can only be done by thinking outside the box. Similar needs emerge in the realm of academia or culture.
This requires specific collaborative processes to stimulate creativity and serendipity and to activate knowledge and experience from managers or officials, often hidden or obstructed because of systemic conditions from the past.
Throughout his career, the interdependence of internal & external developments has been the focus; and innovative forms of collaboration to translate these into strategy and implementation, has been the method to develop added value for public or private sector clients. It has helped them to shape their own future better.
How to do so in practice, which concrete objectives to achieve, needs to be examined together.
Some examples to show how creative thinking has brought leverage and tangible results.
In December 2011, the Council Presidency wanted an initiative to stimulate innovation in EU policies. He was tasked to design a pragmatic way for more creativity and cross-fertilisation in European policies.
He developed an original method for temporary, independent, public-private think tanks to think outside the box , achieving alignment of ideas between leading minds from the public, private and academic sectors and developing innovative policy proposals.
The method appeared to be so impactful that a first so-called High-Level Group, on research and innovation policy, led to the formation of more of such groups to deal with other strategic policy challenges: on trade policy innovation, on Partnership Africa-Europe, on the biosphere economy, on financing transition to sustainability, on new forms of citizenship, on EU governance innovation (in cooperation with the European Policy Centre). As their secretary general, he manages their search for policy innovation. See www.highlevelgroup.eu
The relationship between Europe and Africa, for various reasons, requires a fundamentally new departure, a Partnership, as the EU Commission President called it.
He established an Africa-European Centre on Investment and Trade in Johannesburg (SA), inspired by the work of the High-Level Group on Trade Policy Innovation, offering a new basis for business-government and AU-EU collaboration, based on the triangle of innovation policy, investment and trade framework conditions. He was invited to continue as its executive director. See www.aecit.africa
Promote a new, more inclusive, historic-cultural narrative in order to help overcome the multiple cultural fault lines which hinder mutual understanding and European collaboration.
He developed a new European Prize to highlight the interactions between Europe’s various countries and cultures and to build constructive understanding about the historic diversities of Europe.
The proposal was taken up enthusiastically in Greece and led to the establishment of the Empress Theophano Prize and Foundation, and he was asked to serve on the Board. See www.theophano.eu
Preparing for the European Summit in March 1981, the Dutch government wanted an initiative to modernise public management, and to prepare for the Single Market. European and national public administrations were in need, then like now, of conceptual and operational modernisation.
He conceived and helped set up the European Institute of Public Administration, officially launched at the European Summit in Maastricht in 1981, and as its first director general steered its research and executive development for a decade. The Board of Governors made him an honorary director general. See www.eipa.eu
The planned review of a major European regulation affecting a key economic sector risked disturbing the balance between public and business interests and overlooking ongoing scientific and technological developments.
As partner and later chairman of EPPA, he helped turn the firm towards methods of constructive dialogue, which continue to benefit individual corporations and trade associations without ever losing sight of the public interest. See www.eppa.com
This selection of current and past major engagements is by no means complete.
Versatility, creativity, and foresight, have allowed him to contribute to the design or improvement of many an undertaking in the policy, business, academic or cultural realm. They have also led him to act as bridge builder and successful mediator where cooperation had become strained.