After a stimulating conversation with an admired colleague who is both an ethnographer and business executive, it seems a shame to abandon the notion of sustainable solutions for innovation where it was left yesterday. Based on our discussion, I'd like to add something that occurred to both of us.
Even if there is no time immediately to go into schools where learning starts -- and this is something I recommend highly -- sustainable solutions for innovation can be achieved by crossing silos within the business community alone.
Creativity is the ability to learn continuously across contexts. Begin with culture, research in situ and find out what works in the language of each discipline or field. Present the results on film, through blogs, on radio -- in whatever medium has the most immediacy for those involved. Then take the various languages of different cultures and translate what works across contexts.
Cross disciplines and see things new. Then leverage the resources that have been available all along but hidden in foreign languages and cultures.
A Note on Best Practices
Professional researchers should oversee and analyze the various processes who have no direct allegiance to any of the cultures being studied. Although there is no such thing as objectivity, it's important to have analysts who do not directly benefit financially from any particular process among which the different cultures are negotiating.
The Sustainable Part
As with learning of any kind, the discovery and introduction of new ideas is only the first step. Persist, develop, experiment, collaborate over time with diplomats from each culture continuing conversations both in person and through further research.
As new ideas become old hat, introduce new voices, unfamiliar disciplines, surprising alliances to force yourself to see things new. Patterns and processes will emerge as a kind of cross-disciplinary literacy that can sustain innovation across contexts.