A conversation with Dr. Mike Gould
Dr. Mike Gould will be teaching the Skill-building Masterclass on creativity and innovation at the TFF Academy .
An inspiring leader, scientist, change-agent and disruptor, Mike Gould’s experience includes developing and leading innovative R&D programs in fields ranging from biotech to food ingredients to complexity science to vertical farming. As a thought leader in start-ups and in large companies, and across academic, government and private sectors, Mike and his teams leveraged fundamental discoveries to create new products and technologies that improve the sustainability of modern life. Most recently, as Director of Strategic Initiatives for Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Mike fostered the development of breakthrough programs on urban food production systems, water conservation systems, and innovative crop technologies.
Tell us about yourself, your mission with your work and how it’s connected with TFF?
As a scientist and a leader of scientific organizations, I have spent my career helping others unlock their hidden creativity, innovation and inventiveness. Thought For Food’s powerful mission is harnessing the never before seen human connectivity of today’s technology with the profound desire of a new generation to improve the world they have inherited. And what problem is more important than making sure that the planet’s food production system is both adequate and sustainable? This problem will not go away on its own, and will not be solved without the constructively disruptive attitude and boundless energy that TFF brings. It is amazing to be a part of that!
What’s your understanding of this year’s theme ‘multispectral thinking‘ in today’s rapidly changing world?
Most of the problems facing the planet today require expertise and understanding in multiple disciplines. No single expert is able to embody the knowledge and imagination in all of the disciplines required to achieve the solutions we need. To me “multispectral thinking” means embracing the concept that solutions to the planet’s problems are composed of elements from many fields, and it is essential to see how the pieces can fit together in new and interesting ways. Society tends to reward linear, channeled thinking that extends and improves upon what exists. But it is no accident that many of the most important breakthroughs have actually came from people who were unqualified to make those breakthroughs. And yet they did. There is an incredible moment of clarity and creativity that comes when an expert in one discipline delves into another discipline where he or she is a novice. Unencumbered by the dogma of their new field,, creativity flows to yield elegant and amazing accomplishments.
Multispectral thinking simple embraces the concept that we should purposefully strive to cross disciplines and blend disparate ideas in new ways to achieve the solutions we need for our besieged planet.
Where do you see the challenges in the food & ag space, and how might creativity and innovation help leverage positive change?
Agriculture was the first enterprise of civilization, and it is hopelessly mired in 10,000 years of legacy thinking. If we arrived here today from another galaxy (far, far away) we would never use many of the practices and technologies on which agriculture is based. It is time to rethink the entire food production system from the ground up.
We have enormous technology at our fingertips for breeding and modifying plants and animals, for predicting weather and climate, for modeling supply and demand, and for utilizing massive amounts of data to optimize incredibly complex systems. If we can use these technologies separately, why can’t we use them together to develop a new agricultural system that produces food sustainably and meets the nutritional needs of every individual on the planet. This goal will not be achieved by extrapolating from the present system, just as a rocket cannot be extrapolated from a propeller and an automobile cannot be extrapolated from a horse.
Why and where do you see the role of the next-generation coming into play?
Max Planck, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who discovered quantum theory, once said “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” I think that pretty much sums it up. The world will soon belong to a new generation, who grew up with amazing tools and technology and a brash new attitude to do good. Don’t blow it!
Could you share a little teaser of your Skill-building Masterclass at the TFF Academy 2018?
Some believe the ability to innovate, to be creative and to invent amazing new things is a gift that a lucky few are born with. Not true!
In this class we will build the skills that unlock these incredible talents in all of us, and have a lot of fun in the process.