Welcoming challenging questions, the speaker of Purdue’s Distinguished Lectures series began his speech by saying he hoped to be provocative with his opinions throughout his presentation.
Vijay Vaitheeswaran, China business and finance editor of The Economist, spoke on campus Thursday night. Vaitheeswaran began his speech by encouraging the audience to challenge his bold statements, although he added that he hoped to persuade the audience of his ideas.
Vaitheeswaran outlined what he thinks to be some of the “wicked global problems” that face societies around the world today. These included urbanization, emerging economies and aging citizens throughout the world.
“From trends that will occur between now and 2100 will arise very thorny challenges, but also opportunities for innovation and for entrepreneurs, who will play an important role in creating solutions,” Vaitheeswaran said.
After outlining the main global problems that he sees in the world today, Vaitheeswaran continued his lecture by explaining his ideas for how these problems can be addressed.
“Better ideas are the only way to stay ahead,” Vaitheeswaran said.
Vaitheeswaran explained his thoughts on innovation. He began by stating that he thinks the word ‘innovation’ is misused by many, and he sought to attach a new definition to it.
“Innovation is not invention,” Vaitheeswaran said. “It’s not fundamentally about patents, intellectual property and the number of engineers. Innovation is about fresh thinking that creates value.”
David Thompson, a professor in the College of Science, agreed with Vaitheeswaran’s view that innovation is essential in today’s world.
“Particularly in developing nations, innovation is the only way we can maintain our quality of life,” Thompson said.
The second part of the lecture included Vaitheeswaran’s ideas on how to create more innovation in today’s world. This included a discussion on being able to learn to “fail gracefully.”
“There’s nothing more important to success than failure,” Vaitheeswaran said. “We have to be willing to take more risks, but when you take more risks you fail more often.”
Vaitheeswaran hoped to leave the audience thinking about the problems that face the world today and ways in which innovators can address them through new ideas.
“One of the things I got out of tonight was a new way of looking at the world’s problems,” Thompson said.