Can innovators help get the stalled Mideast peace negotiations back on track?

For certain!

There are two types of innovation: radical ‘blue oceans’, that create breakthrough innovations, and incremental ‘red oceans’, that create significant incremental improvements to existing products.

At present, Israeli and Palestinian teams are negotiating a ‘blue oceans’ radical final settlement agreement. There is little hope it will be achieved, despite visits by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and even President Bush himself. The gap between the two sides is too large, and the degree of trust between the two is very low. Moreover, leaders of both sides, Ehud Olmert and  Mahmoud Abbas, appear to have little support from their own people.  

Is there another way?

In our forthcoming book*, my friend and co-author Gen. (ret.) Robert Dilworth and I propose what we call IRDI’s (‘immediately reciprocal diplomatic initiatives’). These are small incremental measures, in which one side ‘trades’ a trust-building initiative (e.g. removing a checkpoint barrier) in return for a quid pro quo (e.g. removal of a hateful message from a Grade One textbook). Over time, a series of these IRDI’s can build trust and build peacemaking momentum. 

I believe this approach to peacemaking is analogous to Nokia’s Finnish R&D strategy. Nokia invests substantial sums to develop incremental improvements to its existing products, eschewing, in general, blue ocean breakthroughs. As a result Nokia often misses technological ‘leaps’ – but quickly regains market leadership by its skill in focused incremental innovation. We see this happening now as Nokia takes on Apple’s iPod. Finland as a whole follows the Nokia strategy in its national R&D policy.

Final settlement? We tried that at Madrid, Oslo and Geneva. Incremental steps toward a settlement? Isn’t it worth a try? We have little to lose.  

*Robert L. Dilworth and Shlomo Maital. Fogs of War and Peace: A Midstream Analysis of World War III. Praeger Security (with A-USA Books), forthcoming: Washington, DC. October 2008.