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Boyan S. Benev Headshot

One Little 'A'

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I was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, grew up near Leeds, studied in London and now work between Bulgaria and Britain helping companies, NGOs and even politicians breathe real innovation in their respective products, programs and campaigns.

While thousands of miles away I'm glued to the US debt ceiling debate. Not because it's particularly interesting but because the unfolding situation, still pretty much in its infancy, will have a direct and lasting impact on the place I was born, the place I grew up and all the places, institutions and communities I now work with to improve.

My work often seems a little abstract- largely because a lot of it is. Intentionally I say 'real innovation' to try and make a distinction between the way that word is usually used. I don't actually like the word innovation by itself. It's so often used so inappropriately that it has lost all weight and value. Innovation to me is more adaptation than creation: it is the practical application of existing things in a new way which yields either commercial or social results.

i.e. Making links between the abstract and the practical.

I'm currently 26 but I've been doing what I do for more than a decade. One thing I've taken away from my experience is that desire, energy and motivation to realise an idea are more critical success factors than the idea itself. It's far more important that the team you work with feel full ownership of the idea you're trying to push through than just having what you think is a kick-ass idea.

To feel ownership a team must be motivated. They have to believe that their actions matter. That what they do now will make a difference tomorrow. If that motivation is lacking they'll still do the work but they'll likely throw slightly less of themselves into it. That slither of deficit in energy often makes all the difference between success and failure.

Few people I know or work with care about or are even aware of the wranglings in Washington over US debt. I know I'm generalising excessively but in Leeds people tend to care more about stability and security in their careers; in London priorities focus on equity and in Bulgaria there is a great energy to 'do', to create... sometimes at the cost of knowing exactly what it is you're trying to create.

All of these worlds are far closer to each other than I'm sure they'd like to be.

The constant barrage of negative news over the past three years has been steadily and increasingly wearing on everyone. I see this every day, everywhere I go. These distant events are stubbornly chipping away exactly at the soft factors like motivation and zeal which are absolutely critical to our long term progress, our development.

The question isn't whether the US will drop one little 'A' from its debt rating. The question is "What's the point?"- and that's the big, serious question which has ramifications to millions of people around the world going forward many years into the future.

The more people are forced to ask themselves that question, the more they will doubt themselves. The more they doubt the more they'll ultimately fail. It's a rather vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy which has no boundaries, no borders or dam walls to hold back its spread.

I don't think the US will default on its debt any time soon but I don't think that matters. The damage from the fallout of this debate is further cracking an already weathered global self-esteem.

My hope is that people realise their actions are independent and that the opportunities before them, while influenced by their environment, are not predetermined by it. We decide our own successes and failures, not politicians.

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