Thank you, Mr. Leadbeater for sharing your time with us. I was just listening today to the talk you held at the TED conference in 2006. In it you gave as an example of user driven innovation bikers creating the mountain bike. Do you think users will one day invent the perfect car?
Well, users have already played an important role in car design. Many aspects of automotive design that seems obvious today were invented or requested by users. Glove compartments, for example, were no standard in automotive design, but were something customers asked for. Also, seatbelts became a design standard because drivers wanted more security for themselves and their families.
In your speech you explain that great innovations have to be lean, simple, clean and social. What do you think about electric mobility? Does it fulfil these requirements, and will it receive widespread acceptance among drivers?
There is a difference between great innovations and powerful innovations. The key element of a powerful innovation is that it brings about a systematic change in society as a whole. But the downside of a powerful innovation is that its potential is not easily perceived. Many powerful innovations have to overcome a lot of obstacles before being implemented. I am sure that once electric mobility overcomes some supply problems it will be an enormous success for the environment and for our cities.
We are here at the BoConcept store in central Berlin, surrounded by the results of the collaboration between smart and BoConcept. What are the creative benefits brands get by working together?
For me, the definition of a good company is one that helps us live more successful and efficient lives. Both smart and BoConcept knew how to successfully combine their expertises and clear visions of the future. The collaboration intelligently encompassed urban life in general. More and more customers are searching for a complete system of solutions to enhance their lifestyles. Brands that are able to encapsulate a certain way of living through their products will surely gain increasing success in future.
We are witnessing the enthusiastic rise of the shared economy: home sharing, food sharing, and car sharing are booming trends. How do you think it will develop further?
Well, the shared economy is a signal that the middle class is struggling to maintain their lifestyle with a lack of resources. The incomes of middle class homes will remain stagnant in the next two decades, so society is finding new and intelligent ways to cope.
Your expertise does not only encompass trend development, but it also reaches to think tanks. What elements are necessary to build a successful one?
First of all, you have to think. Take your time to reflect and see things from different point of views, new angles and other perspectives. Ideas have to be driven by curiosity and wonder. Many companies try to build think tanks, because they want to simply solve their problems. But problem analysis and solution driven thinking are exactly the opposite of what a think tank should do.
What recommendation would you give to modern cities? What is your advice for urban development?
Well functioning cities are not the ones with strict rules. Cities, like Dubai, that minimize their diversity and cultural richness are way less attractive to inhabitants than cities that are more spontaneous and have more elasticity. I would always recommend building up infrastructure and sociality. Great cities need both to succeed in their development. Melbourne, Vancouver and Portland are really good examples for their rich cultural and social life. On the other hand, cities like London have to be really cautious. In my opinion, a city is killing itself if it stops being liveable. And that happens when the middle class can no longer afford to live there. This is happening in a lot of European cities, and I am afraid this will bring no good.