Luis Davila's Blog

sharing thoughts on life, change and innovation…

The Innovator’s DNA


Image by Vermin Inc via Flickr

I just finished reading an article from the Harvard Business Review on what shapes an innovator. In it, the authors focus on five key skills that define true innovation. These abilities are: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting and networking. When it comes to associating, the authors refer to the “Medici effect;” when great minds with different perspectives come together they will enrich each other work. Places like New York came to mind, where its diversity of people and ideas really promoted a sense of vibrancy and innovation that I have not really found anywhere else.

Innovators also tend to pose the right questions. They tend to break barriers and seek for ways to beat the system. Innovators tend to question the obvious, and imagine opposites. In many ways, as posed by Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind, innovators have “the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their head.” Sometimes this involves playing devil’s advocate, sometimes it means looking at “pushing others to justify themselves.”

I was particularly intrigued by the authors’ take on observation as a way to innovate. It sounds so simple, but this is how I personally have come up with out-of-the box ideas. By looking at something, really spending deconstructing something, one is really bound to come up with new ideas. Think about it, and start innovating it!

After thinking about what to create, or what to improve, innovators start experimenting! The authors mentioned how “whether it was intellectual exploration (Michael Lazaridis mulling over the theory of relativity in high school), physical tinkering (Jeff Bezos taking apart his crib as a toddler or Steve Jobs disassembling a Sony Walkman), or engagement in new surroundings (Starbucks founder Howard Schultz roaming Italy visiting coffee bars).” The authors also have data on how important it is to experiment other cultures. Innovators tend to live in different countries and leverage experiences to innovate in products and services.  

The authors also discussed networking as a tool for for testing new ideas, with a diverse group of people. When others network, they do to seek resources or sell more products, however innovators are looking to extend their knowledge domains. Innovators also attend events like the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conferences, where they are both inspired and energized by new ideas and different ways to tackle problems.

Above all practice, the cross-cutting theme of the article is to keep practicing. The best way to truly innovate is to learn from mistakes and sometimes build upon them. As the authors state in the article “innovative entrepreneurship is not a genetic predisposition, it is an active endeavor.”

Posted by davilalu on January 30, 2010 | Posted in entrepreneurship, Innovation | Comment

How the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts may affect a global climate deal

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 21:  U.S. Senator-elect S...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I find it particularly amazing how a fairly unexpected win by Scott Brown in Massachusetts may derail any chance of securing a legally binding treaty on climate change. Even before his election, the potential of passing a cap-and-trade bill in the US Congress seemed as a very challenging undertaking. Now, without a filibuster-majority, there is not any chance to pass a comprehensive climate change bill this year. Instead, the US Congress will likely pass a bipartisan energy bill, focusing on issues of energy security and efficiency, but without the much needed cap in carbon emissions. This would pretty much relinquish the Obama administration’s ability to cut a real global deal with legally binding provisions, and may even throw away the possibility of implementing the Copenhagen Accords.

Key developing countries such as China and India already seized the opportunity to jump ship from signing into the Copenhagen Accords, which they were responsible for putting together (China in particular was responsible for deleting any mention of mitigation targets by developed countries by 2050). One of the reasons they have claimed for not following up with their commitments was the election of Scott Brown and the unlikelihood of an improved US negotiating position.

I hope that the Obama administration is able to pull some type of miracle and convince some Republicans to sign up to a comprehensive climate bill, otherwise the whole world will be condemned by parochial politics in Massachusetts.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by davilalu on January 26, 2010 | Posted in Climate Change, environmentalism, global warming, obama, politics | Tagged , , | Comment

Conclusions from COP 15

United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009

Image via Wikipedia

After returning to Bonn, I have had a chance to reflect on the outcome of COP 15. The lack of success had a significant toll on the emotional and physical health of many of my colleagues and friends attending the Summit, but I want to focus on constructive solutions to some of the many problems that came up from COP 15.

1) Logistics: Over 40 thousand people ended up showing up in Copenhagen for COP 15, while the Bella Center only was able to hold 15 thousand people. It is incredible that the UN and the Danish government could not predict that logistical nightmare that many participants had to endure on their way in to the negotiations. It is imperative that for upcoming conferences, the UN and the host country recognize that climate change has become a top-political issue and will bring thousands of activists, government officials and media representatives interested in influencing the process. For example, passes could be mailed in advance or distributed in multiple venues throughout the host city, accreditation could reflect the venue’s size (!) and increasing efforts for video conferencing the sessions could be put in place.

2) Consensus vs. majority-based decision-making: One thing that was demonstrated at COP 15 was that the consensus-based model for decision making within the UNFCCC process is dated. The Copenhagen Accord was by no means the perfect outcome, but it still provided a good first step for on-going negotiations. The role of certain countries in bringing their national ideological struggles to the Summit, while denying the international community of some progress in its attempt to deal with climate change was regrettable. I hope that Parties to the UNFCCC reconsider this process, otherwise climate change issues may end up being discussed in a smaller, less democratic setting. 

3) The role of the media: For the first time in its history, a COP meeting attracted a level of media attention reserved for high-level meetings for (controversial) organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). On one hand this demonstrates the level of political relevance that climate change has been able to achieve, but it also contributes to the circus atmosphere felt in Copenhagen. A colleague told me that when you have over 5 thousand journalists all seeking for the juiciest story, it is only inevitable for tensions to rise as politicians try to look good for audiences back home. For example, the media pressure may have led President Obama to rush an agreement with a limited amount of countries. I was particularly surprised to see journalists holding negotiating text before government officials did!  

4) The role of the United Nations: As I mentioned before, there is a serious risk for the negotiation process on climate change issues to be taken out of the UNFCCC context. This is indeed a very dangerous prospect! Not just for the obvious personal reasons, but because the UN, with all of its imperfections, still remains the only inclusive global forum. I do think that the process needs to be reformed (see point 2), but government officials, especially those from small developing countries should discourage any attempts to move the negotiation setting to grouping such as the G7 or G20.

I’ll make sure to keep sharing my thoughts on the UNFCCC process on this blog! I remain hopeful that COP 16 in Mexico will help us get back on track to save humanity from irreversible climate change.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Posted by davilalu on January 25, 2010 | Posted in Climate Change, environmentalism, global warming, international development, obama, politics | 1 Comment

COP 15 – What to expect?

Dear friends,
I travel to Copenhagen this Saturday to attend the COP 15 negotiations. Developing and developed countries are still far away in many key issues, so I expect a lot of last minute wrangling, especially during the last week. I hope to maintain this blog throughout the meetings and share some of my personal views related to the negotiation process. You can also follow me on twitter at
If any of you are attending the COP 15 negotiations, make sure to let me know!
Hope to see some of you soon!

Posted by davilalu on December 2, 2009 | Posted in Climate Change, environmentalism | Comment

Situación en Honduras / Situation in Honduras

(see English version at the bottom)
Estimad@s amig@s,
Saludos! Ya han pasado varios meses desde la ultima vez que escribí una nota en este blog. He estado repleto de trabajo y he participado activamente como voluntario en ONGs amigas, y en unas iniciativas personales las cuales compartiré muy pronto.  De cualquier forma, me sentí obligado a compartir unas líneas sobre la situación actual en Honduras.
Casi una docena de amig@s de toda la región, incluyendo activistas de derechos humanos en Honduras me han escrito compartiendo su indignación y preocupación por la situación política de ese país. Todos se han demostrado en contra del golpe de estado; algunos por razones netamente jurídicas (el golpe fue un acto ilegal) y otros por razones ideológicas (como activistas de derechos humanos la mayoría tiende a ser izquierdista). Mis amig@s y familiares venezolanos muestran una opinión totalmente opuesta. Ellos se manifiestan en apoyo del golpe de estado (al cual se refieren como vacío de poder), enfatizan que todos los poderes públicos están a favor del nuevo estatus quo (porque Zelaya quebrantó las leyes al convocar la encuesta) y demuestran alegría con la idea de que las actividades expansionistas del venezolano Hugo Chávez han sido detenidas. ¡Estas por supuesto son apreciaciones totalmente distintas de un mismo hecho! ¿Cómo es esto posible? Lo trataré de explicar…
Después de varios días de observación, mi análisis es el siguiente: se llevo a cabo un golpe de estado ilegal en Honduras, el cual es muy difícil de justificar. Los poderes públicos debieron haber empezado un proceso jurídico que pudiera separar al presidente de su cargo, si en realidad había cometido infracciones en contra de su nación. Esto hubiese mantenido el hilo institucional de Honduras y fortalecido sus instituciones. Pero, como analista de políticas internacionales también tengo que entender la realidad política e institucional actual en America Latina. El continente vive en un mundo de paradojas y realismo mágico que es difícil de comprender. Sea creado una moda mediante la cual gobernantes como Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales y Rafael Correa han usado el disfraz de la institucionalidad para consolidar su poder como presidentes, dejando al resto de los poderes públicos como sirvientes leales de sus proyectos políticos, en vez de vehículos de contrapeso dentro de un sistema verdaderamente democrático. O sea, no existen métodos legales ni elecciones confiables, que permitan una alternabilidad democrática en estos países (esto sirve de aclaratoria para mis amig@s que mencionan las elecciones como medio viable para la alternabilidad política en el continente). De una manera novedosa, para llamarlo de alguna forma, han logrado utilizar el sistema para disfrazar sus regimenes autoritarios bajo la manta de la democracia. Lo que existe, como existía en la Argentina de Perón y recientemente auspiciado por hombres como Norberto Ceresole (mentor de Chávez), es una relación pueblo-caudillo, que no deja espacios para otras instituciones democráticas. La gente se relaciona directamente con el líder, y los demás actores políticos solamente están como parte de un reparto de segunda que apoya lo que diga el líder en su momento (claro hay que notar que todos son hombres… este neo-caudillismo no dejo por fuera el machismo que nos caracteriza a los latinoamericanos, pero eso es para otro post…).
Dentro del marco de las relaciones internacionales, también se esta dando a lugar otra cosa fuera de lo común, en el que espacios como la OEA se están utilizando como herramientas para perpetuar el circulo vicioso en el que se encuentran los gobiernos de la denominada Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas (ALBA). Se esta convirtiendo en un grupo de apoyo, alimentado mediante el uso de los petrodólares, mediante se defiende cualquier agresión en contra de los dirigentes narcisistas (como los llama Andrés Oppenheimer), en vez de defender a las instituciones democráticas en dichos países. Como diría el mismo Sr. Oppenheimer en una columna reciente, ¡la OEA se ha convertido en un espacio donde permiten que un dictador militar como Raúl Castro despotrique en contra de los ataques anti-democráticos del gobierno en  Honduras! (WTF?!?)
En fin, espero que mis amig@s hondureños puedan decidir el futuro de su país de una manera que refuerce su derecho a su autodeterminación como pueblo. De igual forma, creo que si el gobierno actual en Honduras se mantiene, crearía un precedente político fuera de lo común en el continente; si desconoces las leyes y la constitución te arriesgas a ser destituido por el Congreso y la Corte Suprema y puesto en un avión a un país vecino así seas el presidente del país. Por algo seria que ya Hugo Chávez empezó a decir que había que hacer hasta lo imposible para evitar que los partidos políticos que lo antagonizan obtengan cuotas de representación en la Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela…
Dear friends,
Greetings! It has been months since I posted to this blog, but I have been full of work and been actively volunteering with some NGOs. I also have started working on some other initiatives that I’ll share soon. However, I wanted to write a few lines about the current situation in Honduras.
Almost a dozen friends from across Latin America, including human rights activists in Honduras, have written heartfelt notes regarding the current political situation in this Central American country. They are all against the coup; some of them for legal reasons (the coup was completely illegal) and others for ideological reasons (as human rights activists they tend to be leftists for the most part). My friends and family members in Venezuela have a completely opposite point of view. They fully support the coup (they say that democratic institutions responded to a power vacuum), stress that all branches of government are in favor of maintaining the current status quo (given that Zelaya broke the laws by organizing a referendum) and are actually happy about stopping Chavez’s expansionist activities. These are obviously completely different observations of the same event! How is this possible? I’ll try to explain…
After paying attention to the situation for a few days, I think that the coup in Honduras was illegal and it is very hard to justify. All branches of government should have started a legal process against the president if he was really breaking Honduras’ laws. This would have maintained the rule of law and strengthened the country’s institutions. However, as an international relations analyst I also have to acknowledge the current political reality in Latin America. The continent lives in a really convoluted state of paradoxes and magical realism that is hard to explain. Regional leaders like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa have started to use their electoral victories as a way to legitimize their power grab, whereas other branches of government no longer provide a system of check and balances. There are not any real legal methods or trustworthy electoral processes to provide a true sense of democracy with alternating political parties (I write this as a warning to my friends who claim that electoral processes can guarantee democratic institutions in these countries – Chavez, Morales and Correa control the entities that run the elections!). Today, these countries practice what used to be the norm in Peron’s Argentina and encouraged by men like Norberto Ceresole; a direct relationship between the people and their leader. This type of relationship does not allow other branches of government to hold real power, and are relinquished to satisfy the leader’s wishes (it is important to note that all these leaders are men, not women – this “neo-caudillismo” has not left out the chauvinism that characterizes Latin American societies, but I could discuss this in another post…).
Something very strange is also playing out within the world of international relations; the members of the so-called Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) are now using institutions such as the OAS as tools to perpetuate their authoritarian regimes. It is essentially becoming a support group for the leaders of these countries as they strengthen their internal positions, instead of a promoter of democratic institutions across the region. As Andres Oppenheimer recently wrote, the OAS has become a place where a military dictator such as Raul Castro attacks the new Honduras government for its lack of democratic credentials! (WTF?!?)
I hope that my Honduran friends are able to decide their fate in their own terms. I also think that if the current government is able to hold on to power, it will create a huge political precedent in the region; if a president disregards the constitution, he/she is risking a coup supported by all other branches of government. No wonder Hugo Chavez recently expressed his concern about potential gains by political enemies within the Venezuelan National Assembly…

Posted by davilalu on July 5, 2009 | Posted in international development, politics | Comment

Shareholder Activism in Current Economic Times

Dear friends,
It has been a long time! Lately I have been doing a lot of work on moving assets to socially responsible investments and practices. I think this is a timely issue given the current uncertainty in the financial markets. University and foundation endowment managers have especially moved to strategies such as proxy voting, shareholder activism, and mission and program-related investments. There has been a significant movement to “green” mutual funds and pensions. The climate crisis has definitely played a role in all of this, but great investment opportunities in green tech industries also encouraged investors to put money in these sectors.
Lately, I have been looking for ways to become a more active shareholder, thus getting more involved with my investment portfolio. One of the things I did was to move certain funds to a retail brokerage account. I decided to use as my broker, and thus far things have been going great. They even offer a referral program for new customers (you get 7 free trades – worth $7 each). My referral code is: VTXS2895. I encourage you think about getting into the market, and start advocating for strong regulation within corporations (especially banks) to avoid future meltdowns. If you do, don’t forget to use the code!!

Posted by davilalu on October 15, 2008 | Posted in corporate social responsibility | 3 Comments

International AIDS Conference Days 2 and 3!

Hi all,
These past two days have been filled with intense activities and sessions at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. On Tuesday, I spent a lot of time at the global village. I might already talked about this, but the global village is a space at the IAC 2008 where community groups from around the world are sharing their work and creating opportunities for networking. I hope to be able to share video on this soon.
I also attended sessions on funding gaps and opportunities relating to HIV/AIDS and one on the current state of the pandemic in Latin America. This one was very instructive and brought together activists with leaders from international agencies like UNAIDS and the Global Fund working in the region.
On Wednesday, I attended a plenary on sexual workers, which for the first time had them discussing their own issues. It was very interesting! I also attended sessions on the linkage between human security and HIV (this one with Mary Robinson) and one on the effect of global trade and bilateral agreements on universal access to treatment. The one on human security was particularly interesting as it presented associative (but not causative) data from UNHCR which links low prevalence levels to high levels of conflict. This would mean that wars keep HIV low, and this rapidly expands in post-conflict zones. This was highly controversial, but the speaker tried to focus on the need to invest heavily on post-conflict areas, instead of speaking about when and/or how the data may more directly link low HIV prevalence to conflict.
I finished Wednesday with a session on young people, including youth speakers from India and Guyana who explained youth-friendly programs in their regions and ways that youth-related commitments in the UNGASS declaration are being implemented (or not).
Tomorrow and Friday are the last days of the conference! I’ll keep you posted!l

Posted by davilalu on August 7, 2008 | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

International AIDS Conference 2008 – Mexico City Day 1!

Today I attended a few sessions at the IAC 2008. The first one was a plenary discussing the different approaches to HIV/AIDS. It was very informative!

I then spent a lot of time at the conference’s Global Village. This is a huge exhibition space where a multitude of community-based organizations are sharing their experiences working with HIV/AIDS and organizing a lot of participatory activities.

I also participated in a session on how young people are using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to battle the pandemic. I’ll share some videos from this session soon.

Following this last session, I went to an event focusing on the linkage between migration and HIV/AIDS. I thought it was just going to address migration from Mexico and Central America to the US, but the conversation was much richer and included presentations on migration issues in Asia and Africa.

I ended the day with a session on the pandemic’s future. It was run by an initiative called aids2031 which is trying to create a framework for addressing HIV/AIDS in a more sustainable long-term manner.

I’ll keep reporting!

Posted by davilalu on August 6, 2008 | Posted in hiv/aids, young people, youth, youth engagement | 3 Comments

Youth Pre-Conference at Mexico International AIDS Conference

From July 31 to August 2, I was part of a youth pre-conference to the International AIDS Conference. It was great! I hung out with 200+ young people from around the world working on HIV/AIDS-related projects. The conference provided some preparation for the actual International AIDS Conference, which started last night. I helped organize the last youth pre-conference in Toronto, but feel that this one was better in many ways.
I taped some of the content from the pre-conference and hope to add it to some footage from the main conference and share it with everyone soon!

Posted by davilalu on August 5, 2008 | Posted in young people, youth, youth engagement | 1 Comment

Trip to Huatulco, Mexico!

Last week I spent a few nights at an amazing beach called La Boquita near Huatulco, Mexico. We stayed at a very eco-friendly hotel called Bahia de la Luna. The staff was super friendly and the prices were very affordable.
Most of my stay at Bahia de la Luna was spent hanging out at this beautiful Pacific coast beach. I did take some time to check out some of the reservations in the area holding crocodiles and different types of birds. See the following Youtube videos for details of my stay!

Now, I’m at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. More postings on that soon!

Continue reading »

Posted by davilalu on August 5, 2008 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments