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Dreamers and intellectual humility are two key ingredients in getting maritime to net zero emissions

Su Yin Anand from The Captain’s Table Innovation Challenge on what the industry needs to move along its decarbonisation path.

Is this an outlandish statement? To some, perhaps. But this is what we have observed over the three years we have been running this program. We start with this proposition: Innovation is necessary to get to net zero. We then follow up with this question: What do we need to innovate successfully?

References to dreams are littered in speeches by great people, the most notable being Dr Martin Luther King’s seminal speech in 1968 which came to be known as the ‘I have A Dream’ speech. Even the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley sang about it in his hit song ‘If I can Dream’. Why? It is because dreams lead to success. Dreams inspire.

How does this relate to innovation and getting to net zero emissions? The maritime industry lives in a highly operationalised world where routine processes and procedures, metrics and results are prioritised. Ideas that disrupt routine, or which involve risk-taking, are generally discouraged. Typically, recruitment focuses on talent from within the industry, and therefore, talent comfortable with working in this operationalised world.

Do you have the right level of intellectual humility and curiosity across leadership levels?

However, routine, and risk aversion are diametrically opposed to the notion of innovation, which requires and indeed, encourages creativity, experimentation and risk taking. Dreamers fill the gap between these two worlds. The argument goes that those who dare to dream have the courage to challenge status quo and current biases.  This will undoubtedly lead to conflict between the two worlds- routine and execution versus abstract. But it is at the intersection of the debate between the two worlds that realistic forward looking and human centric solutions will be generated because both the operational world and the dreamers’ world are necessary for innovation. Dreamers provide the ideas and the operational world grounds ideas generated by dreamers in reality. 

This then brings us to the second ingredient – intellectual humility. Innovation is difficult and success often involves having to overcome organisational resistance. It also requires collaboration, and investment of time and resources. Effective innovation requires listening, strong communication, learning mindset and acknowledgement that one person does not have all the answers. This is where intellectual humility is key. By setting aside preconceived notions, opening minds to new ideas and surrounding yourself with people who make you better, leaders of organisations will be well positioned to kickstart and drive their innovation processes. 

Therefore, companies looking to embark upon their innovation (and decarbonisation) journeys should start by looking at their people. Do you have the right mix of operational experts and dreamers, and the right level of intellectual humility (and curiosity) across the leadership levels? A common mistake made by companies seeking to innovate is to jump straight to the technological solution but without the right people looking at and working the technology, the probability of failure is high. After-all, technology is merely an enabler. 

At The Captain’s Table Innovation Challenge, we put people at the focus of what we do, and we believe this is what sets us aside from the competition. We seek to get to know and understand our founders – we look for dreamers. We want to know what drives them, what motivates them, and whether they dream big enough to have the courage to overcome the difficult entrepreneurial path ahead of them. With our stakeholders, we seek out individuals within corporates who are looking to make a difference in their space, and who therefore have the ideas and resilience to challenge the status quo, and provide our founders with the support needed to ground their ideas in reality. This recipe has seen us through 3 successful iterations of the challenge. We are now preparing for our highly anticipated  4th  challenge. 

This year, the focus remains firmly on the four pillars of People, Decarbonisation, Sustainability and Smart Port Solution, and we are actively recruiting for entrepreneurs (dreamers) with solutions in these areas. 

The finals will be held in Hong Kong in January, with fringe events to be held in London and Singapore. More information can be found here.


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