Responsible leadership combined with innovation (RLI –pronounced Rely) for CxOs, is growing extensively since 2017 with 2021 as a breakout year for operationalizing. Purposeful leadership is at the heart of RLI. Dr. Doug Wilson, New York Times best-selling author and Chairman of The CEO Leadership Alliance, Orange County, California, further defines purpose-driven companies with three simple principles:

  1. Do well and good.
  2. Provide employees, customers, and communities both economic and social value.
  3. Align the enterprise and its’ people to a worthy purpose.

I define RLI operationalization as taking principles into useful practice and thus requiring prioritization for businesses. The challenge is learning from good examples to emulate. This is the focus of this article. I provide examples that you can model to turn RLI into measurable execution. The result: High-performance for your organization, doing the right thing for your local community, and contributing to the global good.

In my pro bono contributions across 100+ global programs with non-profits and social impact-focused CEOs and corporations, I am seeing leaders embracing RLI and collaborating in multi-stakeholder platforms and programs.

Are there rapidly growing business application examples of RLI?

Within RLI, we have “Responsible AI (RAI)”, with more than 300 AI principles, frameworks, policy, and regulatory initiatives (OECD AI). Canada is a leader with the notable example of AI Global.

“With the increased use of AI in every aspect of our life, from social media advertising to predictions on health treatments it’s imperative that there is independent oversight to ensure AI systems are built in a way that is safe and protects those using it. As we have seen with LEED and UL, private certifications can often come quicker and augment government regulations. By collaborating with the World Economic Forum and the Schwartz Reisman Institute [for Technology and Society at the University of Toronto], we are working to develop independent oversight for the responsible development and use of AI systems,” said Ashley Casovan, executive director of the non-profit, AI Global.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the internationally recognized green building certification system. UL (Underwriters Laboratory) is a global safety certification program. Casovan is the l. For this article, Casovan provides a good overview of responsible AI in my non-profit IEEE chat.

Casovan is also leading within World Economic Forum Global Initiative To Advance Responsible AI announced last month. Arvind Krishna, chairman and CEO of IBM and co-chair of the Alliance’s Steering Committee, said “It is an honour to co-lead the Global AI Action Alliance and to contribute IBM’s expertise in AI ethics to accelerate the group’s work. I am confident that together we can make the promise and benefits of responsible AI a reality across our society.”

Initial areas of focus include:

  1. Educating government and industry leaders on AI risks, opportunities and best practices.
  2. Fostering international peer learning between legislators focused on AI.
  3. Driving responsible product design and use within AI-driven organizations.
  4. Developing a certification mark for responsible AI systems.
  5. Identifying and reducing bias in AI systems.
  6. Increasing inclusion in the AI ecosystem and expanding AI’s benefit to underserved groups.
  7. Unlocking access to justice through the application of AI in judicial systems.
  8. Leveraging AI to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals.
  9. Preparing citizens for the AI future and empowering them to help shape it.

Why is RLI and the included RAI so important in 2021?

AI adoption in 2021 is 50 per cent (McKinsey The State of AI in 2020) and is expected to grow to more than 80 per cent by 2025 (WEF, Future of Jobs Report 2020). In the post-COVID world with the acceleration of digital transformation, I forecast reaching this as early as 2023. Healthcare is a real-time example. Transformations expected in 10 years are happening now with 5G, telehealth, precision medicine, robots, big data, cloud computing, and RAI will all flourish through the proliferation of next generation networks. To gain insights, see my recent IEEE chat with John Hennessy, chairman of Alphabet.

Another example is startups that exemplify RLI (RAI). CB Insights Game Changers 2020 features AI Transparency as one of its 12 categories of game-changing innovations and startups to watch. RAI includes AI transparency, providing explainability (how and why AI works) and trustworthiness (when and where it can be trusted and by how much). Of the three startups featured as best-in-class, we have DarwinAI headquartered in Canada.

DarwinAI greatly simplifies AI adoption and execution in the enterprise, for any business use case across all industries, with their AI tools providing optimization, explainability and trustworthiness assessment. On the RLI front, DarwinAI released their open-source Covid-NET, to provide AI-tuned diagnostics from CT scans and X-Rays for COVID.

The top considerations and keywords in RLI (RAI)

Businesses need to frame the RLI question to include innovation, governance, data, and the impact it is having. This means beyond new services and products but into new business/organizational/operational models; governance systems; economic, political, societal, and cultural changes.

Other considerations include: accountability, responsibility, transparency, fairness, equity & inclusion, ethics, explainability, interpretability, trustworthiness & reliability, bias & impartiality, liability/vicarious liability (owner of AI liability), privacy, confidentiality, contestability (revisit to contest automated decisions), human control (over automated decisions) – ESG (environmental, social, governance) and UN SDGs (17 Sustainable Development Goals) alignment? When you thoughtfully and with care implement these considerations, you have RLI. These are also the drivers for RAI in 2021.

Responsible leadership and innovation (RLI) – examples to model

YPO Impact movement and summit

A milestone in 2020 was the October 19-21 YPO (29K CEOs, 142 countries, US $9 Trillion revenue) European Impact Summit (EIS20), where more than 1100 CEOs came together to work on RLI. The UN was engaged as a partner.

“[UN agency] ITU is pleased to join YPO in hosting a summit with such potential to give rise to new partnerships,” said Chaesub Lee, director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau. “Only with impactful new partnerships can we innovate at a scale matching the scale of the challenges facing humanity.”

Sivaaji De Zoysa, EIS20 co-chair and member of YPO Columbo and Alpine Chapters these technological and leadership challenges are some of the “most serious challenges in history.”

“For humanity and the planet to thrive in the future, we need global solidarity.” EIS will be the ultimate collaborative platform for stakeholders to develop these solutions.”

For three days through a series of plenary sessions and breakout discussions, EIS20 attendees collaborated and created synergistic initiatives to shape and scale impact for People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace.

“My dream is for YPO to make the world a better place for us and our children,” said Oleg Volkosh, EIS20 co-chair, YPO Europe impact officer and YPO Russia member. “EIS will help us take the next steps to make meaningful and impactful contributions to the world.”

YPO Impact Networks Council (INC) Chair, Florian Kemmerich, shares his lessons in RLI in this non-profit ACM chat. Florian manages a council of chairs of CEO networks. A network is typically more than 1000 CEOs focused on a particular theme. For INC, the four networks or themes are People, Peace, Planet, Prosperity (sustainability) and there is a fifth around partnerships.

Million Peacemakers founder, co-author of Nonflict- The Art of Everyday Peacemaking, chair-elect of the YPO Peace Action Network who moderated the EIS20 session on Democracy and the Future of Europe. 

Stephen Hecht: “Our first [EIS20] session was with the impact group focussed on Democratic values – Liberty, Equality and Justice and how they impact the future of Europe. I also share a keen interest in this topic because I am alive in Canada only because my own 4 grandparents were able to escape a Europe that did not have liberty, equality and justice.

“The YPO Peace Action Network’s mission is empowering our members to build bridges within their communities and the world at large. By using peacemaking tools such as the simple yet powerful 3 step conflict resolution process called the Nonflict way, we create trust and impact.

“What started as a YPO event, led me to leave my career in real estate to co-found the non-profit, Million Peacemakers.  Together, we are transforming the world by reframing conflict into Nonflict. With the power of collaborations, we have trained over 230,000 Peacemakers in the past 6 years, impacting close to 8 million… and are just getting started.

“One recent collaboration with the dedication of volunteer engineer, Dave Russel and team lead, Juan Dejoya, is the Alexa virtual Nonflict coach skill. It’s now available for free on over 200 million Alexa devices and with the power of AI and other collaborations, we will be constantly improving and scaling impact.”

The Knowledge Pledge (TKP) — curates teams of experts in different fields and connects them with critical social projects around the world to help scale their impact

Alain Chetrit (non-profit IEEE chat), co-founder TKP, “We encourage our pledge signatories, many of whom are YPO members, to initiate projects of their own and let our matching processes match them with like-minded individuals who share the same passion. Jointly they will likely develop solutions to affect their lives and the lives of others. That is a win! Capital is important, but alone it is not sufficient! What if TKP was the global resource to provide capacity and connections in a purely altruistic way and leaves the financial aspect to investors. What is a better legacy than one where your knowledge outlives you! Imagine if the content of our brains was combined with that of others and was findable to solve current and future concerns. What if we were able to decentralize it on the blockchain and provide attribution? That is the ultimate honour!  There ought to be a higher purpose for lifelong learning. It can’t be purely for enrichment and self-worth. What if that knowledge survived you and enriched someone else? Would that create a more equitable distribution of wealth? I wonder what society would look like when that is at scale?”

Added insights about leadership, technology integrated with RLI in my late December 2020 non-profit IEEE chats with TKP co-founders, serial entrepreneur/investor/futurist Pierce Dunn and serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, visionary, investor Abhijit Pawar.

CEO Leadership Alliance (CLA OC), AI Superhub, Southern California Master Fund (SCMF)

From their demonstrated global leadership in RLI, CLA keynoted at the YPO EIS20. Doug Wilson, CLA chairman and co-founder provides this perspective in this IEEE chat. Dick Gochnauer, CLA co-founder and chairman of the SCMF provides his insights in this IEEE chat.

In December, Wilson hosted a leadership roundtable with Tom Friedman and shares his learnings from this session. “Tom Friedman says we need to build ‘complex adaptive coalitions’ that will address the most difficult problems a community faces. Business leadership, lead by purposeful CEO’s, is the best tool for bringing the right people into the room and building a long term plan that all can work on to execute.”

Wilson goes on to provide the CLA goals for 2021 and their support of RLI. “Solid moral reasoning along with technical expertise are both required of a great innovation leader.”

Dick, has these priorities for SCMF for 2021.The SC Master Fund, or SCMF, is a fund of funds championed by CLA CEO’s and companies.  It invests in top tier VC’s that leverage the distinctive expertise and knowledge of SoCal Universities and corporations to enhance returns and lower risks.  Our 2021 objectives include 1) open up access to the fund to investors around the world seeking to capitalize on this attractive region 2) create a sister fund for Impact investors and 3) curate and connect LPs to emerging new disruptive start-ups.  Our long term objectives include 1) make SC one of the top innovation hubs in the world  2) create enough attractive innovation jobs to become a net importer of talent in a region that currently produces the largest number of college graduates in the US and 3) Create a capital flywheel to attract and retain the premier entrepreneurs from around the world.”

Nobel Peace Prize winner 2020, World Food Programme (WFP)

The WFP is noteworthy as world-leading:

  1. Largest United Nations Agency at US $8B+ budget.
  2. Largest humanitarian logistics program with 100 aircraft, 30 ships, nearly 6000 vehicles, 18000 staff, working in 80+ countries.
  3. Largest humanitarian innovation incubator, WFP Innovation Accelerator, Fast Company Awards 2017 / 2020, Best Apps ShareTheMeal 2020 from Apple, and Google.

Their focus is zero hunger and David Beasley, Executive Director, provides his insights in my informal hour IEEE chat with him about receiving the Nobel (award ceremony was in December 2020), what attributes make for RLI, execution goals for WFP, and much more. Beasley notes that food security provides peace, stability; reduces migration, famine, and starvation and leading to a special United Nations Security Council resolution.

Beasley speaks about the importance of the private sector for funding, WFP engagement, and taking ownership of issues in developing countries by investing in the agricultural sector; in all sectors of the economy, making better laws of transparency and infrastructure, health care system, job laws, and much more.  Beasley thoughtfully shares that private industry be willing to take a lesser return on investment over the longer period, by investment in countries that aligns with social responsibility, since it will support stabilization of economies and economic growth over time and longer term companies will do better.

DTGO Most Ethical Company Awardee 2019, 2020

DTGO based out of Bangkok Thailand is the model for a forward-thinking company marrying with the UN SDGs. For two consecutive years, they have achieved the global distinction of Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Companies.

“Applying the principles of her father, Mr. Dhanin Chearavanont, her commitment to ethical business helped the group become the first Thai business among the World’s Most Ethical Companies. Her recognitions for societal contribution include designation as a Forbes ‘Hero of Philanthropy,'” noted by DGTO, about founder and chair, Thippaporn Ahriyavraromp.

Chair Thippaporn Ahriyavraromp, is one of 14 top companies leaders, featured in the 2020 Leaders on Purpose annual report. This is the 3rd annual report from the Leaders on Purpose group created by Harvard University, Unilever, The World Bank, and the London School of Economics. From the report which has extensive practical recommendations, “Doing good is good business. Studies have shown that over the last 30 years, purpose-driven businesses have outperformed competitors according to most profitability benchmarks (Stengel, 2014). Now, evidence indicates they are performing better during the COVID-19 outbreak as well. Unlike the outdated corporate social responsibility (CSR) model, which views advancing social good as an elective service, the purpose-driven approach incorporates social good into every aspect of the business structure. It thus encourages businesses to promote social good with greater agility and resilience in times of crisis.”

An example of her global leadership is her Forestias development, building an entire multi-generational smart community along with sustainable development goals with the greenest innovation and unified holistic integration with biodiversity and the environment.

Forestias represents a new global prototype for smart town development designed and built by some of the world’s most respected experts and organizations to ensure total alignment with a healthier and happier quality of life.

Two added examples are her RISC and Future-Tales Labs. Chair Thippaporn Ahriyavraromp’s team led by RISC Chief Advisor, Dr. Singh Intrachooto, and FutureTales Chief Advisor, Dr. Karndee Leopairote, identifies leading research in the top institutions globally, brings them into the two labs, and then makes the outcomes openly available. RISC stands for Research & Innovation For Sustainability Center.

The centre serves as a resource for society, dedicated to reducing the impact of our lifestyles on the environment. It also provides publicly accessible data and information that can improve methods and materials across the property development sector.

Future Tales Lab: “We are a research centre for future solutions planning, cooperation, and proactive advocacy. We focus on future foresight, data analytics, and the creation of a collaboration platform for futurists around the world. FutureTales Lab seeks enduring partnerships with government, academia, business, and communities. We focus on Habitat & Well-Being in 8+1 key areas: Future of Living, Technology & Robotics, Future of Healthcare, Future of Learning, Climate Crisis, Biodiversity, Global Energy, Space Exploration, and Project X. We explore trends, data, and future scenarios. We seek the well-being not only of humankind but of all life.”

DTGO very much aligns, founded on decades RLI leadership, with the announcements made in January 2021. BlackRock Chair, Larry Fink, in his letter to CEOs, calling for company disclosure on their business model supporting net-zero economy, talent strategy incorporating diversity, inclusion, and equity. The World Economic Forum (WEF), announcing the world’s largest companies are committing to disclosing core ESG metrics.

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