Joseph Crea

Zenia Tata, the Greenbuild International Summit luncheon speaker, shares her views on innovation and change.

At the 2016 Greenbuild International Summit, the luncheon speaker will be Zenia Tata. USGBC spoke with her recently about her sustainability goals, and when one listens to Tata speak about the bold, world-changing ambitions of her organization, XPRIZE, her lofty goals seem not only possible, but also palpable. 

Tata is the restless and energetic executive director of global development for XPRIZE—a facilitator of exponential change and a recognized leader in designing and implementing large, audacious, incentivized campaigns to solve the world’s grandest challenges. Tata likes to work with innovators—but not just those hailing from the research and development departments of storied companies.

For Tata, innovators are found in a diverse geographic and economic spectrum. There are “young innovators, old innovators, innovators that come from the rising billion, innovators that come from rural areas," and they must all participate and work on a level playing field in order to effect true, scalable change. In empowering this diverse group of innovators, Tata believes that “you and I are capable of world change...radical world change. But we need incentive. And this incentive I am talking about is a potent mixture of passion, drive and money.” 

With an array of world-class corporate partners and visionaries supporting XPRIZE efforts, Tata is most interested in first defining problems of scale. “In the beginning, we really don’t care what the solution looks like, we are more interested in defining the problem in a way that is broad enough to attract crazy ideas and crazy solutions,” she explains.

With the daylong International Summit focused on smart cities, urbanization and sustainability, identification of challenges is an essential part of the dialogue. The ability to discover and encourage an array of solutions, and visionaries to implement those solutions, is equally essential when seeking to build a healthier, more sustainable world. Toward that end, Tata will share the wisdom she has gained throughout her career and at XPRIZE. Her lunchtime plenary—an exploration of the space between problem and solution—will provide a valuable perspective that you won't want to miss.

Our favorite quotes from Tata on making change:

Our heroes. "We need a whole new breed of superheroes—heroes who have everyday backgrounds, who are truly achieving amazing things, both small and large, in all kinds of different areas—and we need their stories brought to the forefront so that all generations have new heroes and role models. [We need] everyday people to learn from who are not just all about how rich they made it or how famous they made it. It’s much, much, more than that."

Our goals. “You need to shift your perspective from local and linear thinking to global and exponential thinking, and you need to shift your mindset to one of abundance, rather than operating from a point of scarcity.” 

Success and failure. “Learn how to fail—accept failure. Fail fast, fail forward, fail cheap. Keep it very, very agile and shift your perspective.” 

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