Naji Gehchan: Hello, leaders of the world. Welcome to spread love in organizations, the podcast for purpose-driven healthcare leaders, striving to make life better around the world by leading their teams with genuine care, servant leadership, and love.
I am Naji, your host for this episode joined today by Phil Budden Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan focusing on ‘innovation-driven entrepreneurship’ (IDE) and innovation ecosystems. Phil’s approach combines academic, historical and real-world perspectives on how different stakeholders can all contribute to building successful innovation ecosystems. Prior to MIT, Phil had undertaken projects on innovation and entrepreneurship for the British Prime Minister’s office and served as the British Consul General to New England where he had been responsible for transatlantic business issues, including trade and investment, corporate/government affairs, as well as science and innovation. Phil has held several diplomatic posts with the British government: British Cabinet Office; British Embassy, Washington DC; 1st Secretary and Adviser to the PM. Phil holds a BA and MA in History from Lincoln College, the University of Oxford; an MA in History and Government from Cornell University; and a PhD in History and International Political Economy from the University of Oxford.
Dr. Phil – it is such a pleasure to have you with me today.
Phil Budden: Naji, it is a pleasure to be with you. Thank you for having me on your podcast, and I’m looking forward to chatting.
Naji Gehchan: It’s a really special episode today, having a great diplomat who, uh, I had this pleasure to have as a professor at MIT during innovation entrepreneurship classes.
Uh, can you tell us, uh, Phil, more about your personal story from learning history to diplomacy and now teaching at m i t mm-hmm. . What’s, what’s in between this great, uh, journey you.
Phil Budden: Well, uh, nudge, it’s a great question and you were a great student. It’s one of the things I really enjoy about being at m i T.
So, uh, uh, yes, you went through my cv. I was training to be a historian. Uh, turned out I had a good memory. Um, for historical dates, I was an introvert. I loved reading, and so I wanted to be a historian and I was training to be a historian until history happened, and this will date me. Uh, but the Berlin Wall came down and so I pivoted and said, I don’t just want to study history, um, of the past because history is happening around us.
And so I pivoted to become a. I’d always been fairly international in my perspective. Speak a a few language.
Um, and so I always took a, a, a sort of more global perspective thing, so became a diplomat and had a wonderful 20 year career as a diplomat. Uh, and then had an opportunity to stay here in Boston. And I’m honored to be, uh, a senior lecturer at MIT’s management school. Um, having got a doctorate before going into diplomacy, I was nicknamed.
Dr. Phil, because there’s not many diplomats with doctorates and it seems to have stuck. And so, uh, I am not that Dr. Phil, I’m a different doctor Phil. Um, but that is how you find me at m i t now getting to teach great students like you. Oh,
Naji Gehchan: thanks. Thanks. Uh, Phil, uh, uh, uh, before going into, uh, where your focus is, uh, and what you worked on, you said I was an introvert, so I’m very interested with the past term.
And knowing you, I would have never said you are an introvert, so I, I’m, I’m like, I think we’re pretty similar. I’m an introvert too, so I, I’d love to hear mm-hmm. , why you said I was and did you work mm-hmm. on not becoming one, and it’s definitely not the perception that I think many of us have as your
Phil Budden: student.
That, that’s a great question. Now, Naji, I was and still am, uh, an introvert and it’s one of the things I’ve had to reckon with on my leadership journey when I was going to be an academic historian, it did ma did not matter that I was an introvert and loved research and study. , but through my diplomatic career, I had to, um, develop and evolve.
One of the misconceptions about introvert extrovert, um, comes down to that actually. They’re about the source of where we draw energy and we introverts draw our energy and recovery from stepping back from people and recovering and re. Uh, it doesn’t mean we’re any less sociable. Uh, you know, Naji, uh, and I are both very sociable people.
I’ve seen us at Ember parties, um, extroverts, however, get their energy from being around other people. And so for them it’s hard for them to be alone. So, yes, people are often surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert, but I think it’s important to do that because I think you can lead whether you recharge as an introvert.
By yourself or you recharge as an extrovert for some strange reason, wanting to be surrounded by people. Um, and that’s one of the things, uh, I’ve discovered. So I am, I, I reckon with my introversion, I can get up and I can teach, I can socialize, but then I need a chance to fall back. And often I will reach for a history book and just read about the world and recover in that way.
But I think it just shows that there’s a variety of ways of becoming a. . So true. And I think
Naji Gehchan: it it relates to if you love people, actually it doesn’t, you can be an introvert, love people. Mm-hmm. or extrovert love people. It’s just a matter that you need some time for yourself to recharge Exactly as you said.
Mm-hmm. . Exactly. But the key for, for leaders is obviously caring for others, right. As we’re gonna be discussing today. Yes. So you, you’ve seen and helped with the birth, uh, of several ideas. Uh, some of them turned into startup. Grew, uh mm-hmm. , what has been for you, the key for those who became successful ventures from all those that you’ve seen throughout the past years?
Phil Budden: It, it has been fascinating. I, I worked on innovation when I was in government and at, ill teach about innovation, uh, here at, at m i t and one of the very humbling things is, Just the sheer volume of ideas that people have that they want to take forward. And this is not limited to young male coders in hoodies creating the next digital dance app.
It turns out that people, you know, mid-career, um, who have not had a background in technology can also be great innovators. In fact, often they can be. Because they know the challenges of the world. They know the problems that need to be fixed, and I love being at M I T because we’re not obsessed with just the purely web-based digital apps we have.
Doctors and medical professionals who want to make the world better through innovation in their areas of expertise. We have people from national security and defense who want to make the world a more secure space through deep technology and hard technology. We have people who are interested in the energy transition and achieving climate net zero.
Which you’re not gonna do with digital dance apps. You need people who are going to work on fusion energy and carbon capture. Uh, and so it’s a privilege to be at m I t and just see amazing people, professors, students, the broader ecosystem coming up with ideas about innovation that’s actually gonna have meaning for them, and they will lead that innovation through to impact.
Naji Gehchan: you, you mentioned several times ecosystems and you’re passionate about it and you actually work on it. So can you help us a little bit more understand and share your view about what do you mean by ecosystems that can foster innovation and entrepreneurship?
Phil Budden: Uh, that’s a great question, and I’m drawing on some fabulous m i t professors research in this area.
The ecosystem term helps us to answer a question, why is the world not. You know, Tom Friedman told us 20 years ago, the world is flat. Uh, anything can happen anywhere. And in terms of innovation, it’s not flat. In fact, it’s not fair. There are perfectly good places and perfectly good people that are left behind by innovation.
And so ecosystem is, uh, a model to try to understand why does the best innovation happen in certain places. , um, Silicon Valley, Boston, Cambridge, London, on a good day. Uh, why does it not happen in other places? Perfectly good Places like Nebraska, Kentucky, um, Scotland, Wales. And so the ecosystem becomes our way to both answer that empirical question, but also to give us a framework to take things forward.
And the thing about an ecosystem, rather, like in biology, it’s. There’s a variety of different players and species. There’s a des there’s a variety of different assets and and nutrients. Some of them are in collaborative relationships. Some are predatory. Some are parasitic. But this ecosystem, organic model is something we’ve now taught for a decade based on prior research and seems to help us explain why things happen in some places and not in others.
So can you in a
Naji Gehchan: nutshell tell us.
Phil Budden: Happen. I can give you the framework. So this is where my, his, this is where my history kicks in. Um, and so the ecosystem model helps explain why the industrial revolution and started in England, despite its many problems, why it spread the way it did. And this is relevant today for the 21st century.
And I think really important as we head into the, uh, economic turbulence ahead. So ecosystems, In the places on the planet that do best at innovation, there are five key stakeholders, one of which is the entrepreneur. Then there’s the traditional ones in the so-called triple helix of government, university, and big business.
Now, if a committee of government, university and big business was enough to solve problems, we’d all be rich. The challenge. That’s not enough to have a committee. You need to have the entrepreneur at the table because they’re the ones who are creating the enterprises of the future. And one of the things I’ve discovered in my corporate innovation research and teaching is sometimes big companies find it awfully hard to innovate, even if they came from an innovative startup.
So you do need entrepreneurs to keep refreshing that. Uh, and as you’ll have spotted, there’s a fifth one, and that is what we called risk. So venture capital is a form of that, but also angel investing, private equity, corporate venture capital, the ones who are willing to to fund the entrepreneurs. And so this five stakeholder model seems to apply around the world.
We’ve taught this in an M I T program called reap. We’ve now worked with 80 teams from all of the major continents, from most of the different political systems. The same five stakeholders seem to matter whether you are in Chile or China. Beirut or Paris. And so this is a model that is informed by our research, but also seems to be a framework for those who want to make a real difference and lead for impact in companies and communities that matter to them.
Naji Gehchan: sharing this framework. Uh, what is the role of leadership and all?
Phil Budden: Oh, leadership is key. So the word innovation, people when they hear this, they sometimes think it’s technology that all you need is a piece of technology, and M I t produces lots of technology. All you need is the app or access to the cloud or a fusion reactor.
Well, The M I T approach to innovation is the technology is important, but it’s not enough. You need to have leadership to go from the technology and the idea to impact, because the biggest challenge is not the technology, it’s usual, the people, the processes, and the systems. How do you bring the technology to bear?
Innovation does not happen spontaneously or sustainably without leadership. And so I spend a lot of my time working with executives saying, y Y. You may no longer feel that you are the most entrepreneurial tech savvy or innovative person in your organization, but if you are in a leadership role, Your leadership is crucial at empowering people around you, supporting them to, to spread the love about innovation and make it safe for people to, to innovate.
And so leadership really is the deciding factor within ecosystems, but also within companies and sectors. I love it.
Naji Gehchan: And how you frame that, leadership takes those innovative tech to
Phil Budden: impact Yeah. Out. They don’t get that by themselves. Well, a
Naji Gehchan: totally different question, uh, about diplomacy. I, I, do you miss being a
Phil Budden: diplomat?
Um, it was, that’s a great question. It was a great honor to be a British diplomat. Um, my final job was British Consult General to New England. Um, and especially to m i t. Uh, it was a great privilege to serve my country and my queen. Um, So I miss aspects of that. But the interesting thing is, I, I still find myself performing little d diplomacy.
Um, it turns out before diplomacy had become the action of of nation states, lots of people could be diplomatic. And so I actually think there are lessons from diplomacy, including in innovation ecosystems. You know, the way that an executive from a corporation engages the rest of the ecosystem requires a form of dis diploma.
Um, in the theory of diplomacy, it’s often regarded as the, uh, the mediation of estrangement, coping with differences, and so understanding the differences between a corporate leader at a startup venture between a government official and a university academic. So one of the things I find myself teaching some of the students, though not you yet Naji, is how to take these diplomatic approaches and to think like a diplomat, because it’s not the same as just command and control within a company if people still do that, uh, it’s not the same as, you know, between a professor and a student.
It really does require respect, understanding, and a realization that we sometimes speak different languages when we talk about innovation and technology, even if it’s all in some form of.
Naji Gehchan: That’s, that’s great to, to have this kind of how you’re transfer one part of diplomacy and I agree. Like we’re diplomats talking with people, managing relationship is super important in what we do.
Yeah. What, what, what is your view, uh, I don’t know if it’s a politically correct question, but I’d love your current view on global diplomacy in this ongoing craziness. I would say in the word and unfortunate things
Phil Budden: happening. Yes. , I think it just reminds us that diplomacy is even more important than than ever.
Land war has sadly returned to Europe. Um, and so there’s also a needed for hard edged defense, but diplomacy never stops. And so ultimately we’re still going to be living along alongside each other as nations. And so diplomacy as the way to mediate, estrangement, um, is going to be necessary. And diplomacy is not just with your friends and all.
It’s with your competitors and adversaries. And so I think it’s through diplomacy that we actually need to address these issues, that we need to come to some sort of halt in hostilities in the war that we need to manage the rise of other powers in Asia, respecting differences, but also coming up with some, some basics.
And so I actually think while the focus is on defense and the military, Diplomacy is going to be hugely important, uh, especially in the regions. I’m looking at more now, uh, the Middle Eastern Africa, where I think understandings, conflict prevention, shared prosperity are going to be really important. And I think some of the diplomatic tools, uh, respecting differences, acknowledging that we speak, uh, different languages, even if we’re.
Basically speaking, you know, English or Arabic or French or Spanish. Understanding those differences and managing those differences, I think is gonna be important. So, oddly, at the start of 2023, I think diplomacy is needed even more.
I’m gonna give you now
Naji Gehchan: one word and I would love your reaction to it. So the first word is
Phil Budden: leadership. Ah. Essential leadership is essential. Without it, we don’t make progress. And this is not just leadership. For those who are technically in leadership roles, loads of individuals can show leadership in loads of different ways.
What about entrepreneurship? Entrepreneurship is hugely important. It’s not the same as innovation. You can be entrepreneurial with a very low innovation, low tech venture. All of those people who are running corner stores or um, uh, Uh, bread stalls that I saw in Jordan in Egypt, or mum and pop stalls or pizza stores.
That’s a form of entrepreneurship and we should welcome people being brave to be entrepreneurial. We just shouldn’t confuse it with innovation and the real gamechanging changes that we need. The third word is
Naji Gehchan: console.
Phil Budden: Console. I was a console. Um, it means you are operating in a region. You are not the ambassador because the ambassador is the representative to the sovereign country.
Uh, so a console is a form of diplomat and it’s. It was my honor to be a consult for the late, uh, her Majesty the Queen, and it gave me a great opportunity to work with partners across New England, but also realize that I was just one small part of a global diplomatic network. And it was my job to show local leadership, but leadership in support of the wider network’s efforts.
The last word
Naji Gehchan: is thread love in
Phil Budden: organiz. Well, I, I’m British, so, and, and male, so it’s hard for me to talk about this love thing, but I love the initiative that you’ve shown Naji about spreading love because it reminds us that at the end of the day, , it’s about people. You know, we were talking about innovation.
Innovation is more than just technology. Uh, innovation can be of business models or processes and people. And as much as the pandemic had us thinking about technology and being remote and, and it’s great, you know, you and I get to chat and you get to record this, that is lovely, but at the end of the day, it’s about people.
And the diplomat in me thinks it’s about connecting people. And so you need to spread that love and joy and leadership can do. But so could pretty much any member of an organization, some of the most joyful people for me to work with are the ones I stroll in, uh, who greet me at the office and we chat about their lives and, you know, the challenges.
And so I think it’s really important to, to spread love, not least because it reminds us about leadership is about the people.
Naji Gehchan: Any final word of wisdom felt for leaders
Phil Budden: around the. . Um, it is with considerable modesty that I as a aging white middle class Brit, uh, offer advice in global contexts. Um, but leadership is really important.
Leadership is the only thing that’s really made a difference through history. And it’s not just leaders of countries who are elected or selected. It’s about leaders of companies, leaders of universities, leaders within communities, leaders of families. And so I think leadership is the thing that makes the difference.
So I encourage people to think what kind of leadership could they? Um, respect diversity. Uh, I am an introvert. My leadership is in small bursts, after which I need to recover. Uh, others will be able to show leadership in, in different ways, but be thoughtful about your leadership. Be respectful of the people.
Um, leadership without followership. Is just emptiness. So think about what is AU leadership authentically in your area, and think through to the impact. What, what are you leading towards? What difference are you going to make in the world? Um, how are you gonna make sure that all the right people are involved and that you’re having a positive impact?
Well, thank you
Naji Gehchan: so much Dr. Phil for being with me today. It was an incredible chat. Thanks for being.
Phil Budden: Naji, my pleasure. And I wish you lots, uh, of good luck with spread love. Keep up the good work. Thank you.
Naji Gehchan: Thank you all for listening to spread love and organization’s podcast. Drop us a review on your preferred podcast platform
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