Face-to-face dialogue "Positive Impact

Francisco Palao and Juan Martínez-Barea

The Rafael del Pino Foundation organised, on 6 October 2022, the face-to-face dialogue "Positive impact on the occasion of the publication of the work of Francisco Palao of the same title published by Deusto.

The event took place according to the following programme:

  • Intervention by Francisco Palaoaccompanied on the piano by the composer and pianist Antonio Montañés.
  • Dialogue between Francisco Palao y Juan Martínez-Barea

Francisco Palao is an experienced and internationally recognised entrepreneur, the founder of the Purpose Alliance and the creator of the framework Purpose Launchpad. Francisco holds a PhD in Artificial Intelligence and an Executive MBA from IE Business School. In addition, Francisco advises leading organisations on their innovation strategy and corporate transformation. He has also been collaborating with leading business schools and universities in his sector, such as Singularity University and IE Business School, sharing his expertise in entrepreneurship, disruptive innovation and exponential technologies. Previously, he has founded and led several startups, including: Cognocare, an award-winning AI-based assistant to personalise cancer treatments; LeanMonitor, a platform to help entrepreneurs and corporations with their innovative projects (was acquired by Gust.com); Nativoo, an AI-based platform for tourism (was acquired by Sbtur); and IActive, a high-tech company focused on artificial intelligence and named Cool Vendor by Gartner in 2012. He has also been awarded several prestigious international recognitions, such as the TR35, an award given by MIT to innovators under the age of 35 worldwide.

Juan Martínez-Barea is founder and CEO of Universal DX, a biomedical start-up that develops a technology platform to detect multiple types of cancer with a simple blood sample. Juan holds a degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Seville (Spain), and a Master in Economics from the Ecole Centrale de Paris (France). Juan knew very early on that he wanted to be an entrepreneur, so he decided to complete his education with an MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge (USA). At MIT he fell in love with its high-tech entrepreneurship competition, the MIT $100K, and convinced the MIT Entrepreneurship Center to help him launch the "Spanish $100K", which in 1999 became the first high-tech start-up accelerator programme in Southern Europe. In 2010, he graduated in Exponential Technologies at Singularity University, NASA Ames Park, California. There he found the inspiration to leave everything behind and dedicate his life to solving one of humanity's greatest challenges, cancer, and Universal DX was born. As a parallel career, Juan has launched multiple entrepreneurship and scholarship programmes for young students, including the non-profit Eduarda Justo Foundation, and most recently, SPUTNIK, a non-profit educational programme to train, motivate and inspire 5,000 high school and college students to launch high-tech start-ups.


On 6 October 2022, the Rafael del Pino Foundation organised a dialogue with Francisco Palao, founder of Purpose Alliance, entitled "Positive Impact", on the occasion of the publication of his book of the same title, published by Deusto.

Everything we know today in the universe began at a singular point of energy with the Big Bang. No one knows for sure why the universe arose, but we begin to know a little about how it has evolved since then. Hydrogen atoms began to be created, which have very basic properties, but are also the most basic atomic structure known. Hydrogen atoms begin to concentrate into hydrogen clouds and, due to the very force of gravity exerted by some atoms on others, there comes a moment when the universe is illuminated. This is the first time that light emerges. That's when we can begin to see, even though there was no one there yet.

This phenomenon is truly magical because, with nuclear fusion, new elements begin to emerge in the cores of stars, new atomic structures that have new properties. In fact, it is in the nuclei of stars that most of the atoms that make up us have been created. In a way, we are all stardust.

All these increasingly complex atoms have more and more atomic properties. There comes a time when radioactive atoms emerge which, because they are more complex, have a new property, and that is that they emanate energy, precisely because they move from simplicity to complexity, and that complexity brings new properties.

These new atoms give rise to new molecules and so on, and at a certain point, planets emerge. On the planets, we see other kinds of chemical reactions that keep the universe evolving. At a certain point, the universe produces structures so complex that they reproduce themselves. Life emerges, which again makes that complex thing continue to reproduce itself, and we go from single-celled to multi-celled beings. Again we see the pattern of emergence of new properties as we move from the simple to the complex. In this case, multi-cellular living beings emerge with eyes, which are cells that have specialised in seeing, in perceiving light. The universe grows eyes and begins to see itself, because all living things are part of the universe, and so vision emerges and, with it, new properties, such as photosynthesis.

We see living things starting to have a neural network, which makes living things able to react to their environment and the brain emerges. Intelligence emerges. The universe becomes intelligent, which means that we start to adapt to our environment. We make decisions and take different kinds of actions depending on the environment around us.

New kinds of life emerge, and life breaks through further. At some point in the evolution of animals, humans emerge. Humans have something very special, the brain, which is the most complex structure we know and also the most unknown. We don't know how it works. But something very interesting emerges in the universe, specifically in our brain: consciousness emerges, the ability to be aware that we exist. The universe begins to be aware that it exists. This is magic.

People also have a number of capacities that differentiate us from other living beings. We dream. We are capable of imagining things that other living beings cannot imagine. We imagine reaching for the stars, flying, things that cannot be done. What differentiates us from other living beings, too, is that we create. We are creators and we make our dreams come true thanks to technology, which allows us to fill the gap between our dreams and reality. This is precisely what makes something new, something very special, which is invention, emerge in the universe.

Invention, which arises through humans, makes the world accelerate, because we start to create vehicles, the printing press, the computer. All this makes the world go digital, not only at company level, but we ourselves, our lives. We read through digital media, we communicate through digital media. Our children even begin to use technology in a natural way, they even program. Technology is everything that did not exist when we were born. Therefore, an iPad or a computer are not technology for the younger generations. They are there and they use it naturally. We start printing any object we want in our house. We can imagine anything and print it because, in this era of our digital technologies, we have in our hands possibilities that a few years ago would have seemed like science fiction.

Technology doesn't always work well. Sometimes we try to innovate and it doesn't always work. At the time, Microsoft launched the first tablet and it didn't work, it was a failure. Google also launched the first augmented reality glasses and they didn't work either. Over time, we humans have realised that, in order to do something new, the most normal thing is that at first we fail and we have to enter into that virtuous circle of trying, failing, learning, trying again and succeeding.

All these cycles have given rise to innovation methodologies. So there was a moment, a few years ago, when we entered the era of innovation. We tried to turn our breakthroughs into improvements, into new value for the market, into new products and services. Fortunately, there were a number of entrepreneurs who provided us with their knowledge and packaged it into methodologies such as lean startup, design thinking, and many of the like.

We have technology, methodology and tools that allow us to innovate. But we still have many challenges at the global and local level, which are unjust, such as poverty, climate, environment, inequalities. The anthropologist Margaret Mead was once asked what it was to be human, what it was to advance, what it was to be human civilisation. Any one of us would have thought of a knife, a bowl, something that represented progress. But Margaret Mead said that the first sign we found of human civilisation was a femur that was naturally welded together. What happens is that, in the animal world, if an animal breaks its femur, it is condemned to death. But this human being didn't die because the bone was welded. What happened was that there was a group of individuals who helped him selflessly. That is what makes us human and what has made us advance as a civilisation: caring and helping others selflessly. It's not a question of technology, it's a question of changing the mindset.

That is what we have to do, to think about how we have to advance our mentality in order to advance as a society. There are many people who have given their lives, their talents, so that we are here today. Marie Curie lost her life to discover radioactivity. This has meant that we are here today thanks to X-rays, among many other applications, and thanks to her we live longer. Also Tesla, who made huge advances in energy. And also Turing, whose inventions, his discoveries, his inventions in cryptography and automation stopped the Second World War, and he is the father of artificial intelligence. All these people gave their lives for us and made it possible for us to have all our technologies in the palm of our hands today. Technologies with which we can change the world. They are no longer science fiction. Mobile phones allow us to spend our leisure time, but they are also super powerful. That's why we have to change the mentality in everything we do.

At the level of mindset, there are four implications that all the exponential technologies available to us have led us to. The first is abundance. We live in a world of abundance. We have an abundance of information, of data, of energy. In this era of abundance we have to think about doing things differently, otherwise we will be like Kodak. Kodak went bankrupt at the same time that Instagram was bought by Facebook, for 1.5 billion dollars, because Kodak had a business model that was based on scarcity. It sold something scarce, rolls of film. Meanwhile, Instagram took advantage of the fact that the more photographs we store and upload to the internet, the more business it has. Therefore, in terms of entrepreneurship, in terms of business, we always have to consider how we take advantage of the abundance we have thanks to technology.

The second implication is exponentiality, which is a direct derivative of abundance. We live in a world where organisations grow exponentially because they leverage abundance. Airbnb is the largest hotel in the world and it doesn't own a single hotel. What happens is that it taps into the abundance of available rooms and manages it in a way that allows it to grow exponentially. Google does the same with information, Uber with available drivers, Netflix with content. So, exponentiality is something we must always bear in mind when developing our projects.

The third implication is purpose. As we meet our basic needs as humans, we gradually move upwards aspirationally and arrive at purpose, at self-realisation. The power of purpose is very powerful. Business schools, such as Harvard, have long been highlighting the importance of leading with purpose. We have leaders, like Elon Musk or Bill Gates, and organisations that already have purpose. We have companies like Google that have a purpose. Specifically, Google's purpose is to organise all the information in the world. Because of that, we are able to access that information and do really amazing things. Tesla has a purpose to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy. All organisations start, in one way or another, to think about what their purpose is. As a result, everything starts to become more complex, as we saw in the universe. We see that ecosystems start to become more purpose-driven. Tesla is an example of this. The fact that it has a larger market capitalisation than the sum of its competitors is not by chance, nor by speculation. What happens is that Tesla is not just a car company; it is a purpose-driven ecosystem. It puts its purpose at the centre, accelerating the world's transition to a sustainable energy model, and around it it has products and services, such as electric vehicles, batteries, solar panels, apps, that serve the purpose and, at the same time, generate more business for Tesla while having more positive impact.

This is a trend we are seeing. Google is an ecosystem, Apple is an ecosystem that puts its purpose at the centre. Apple is no longer a computer company. The very concept of computing, or industry, is starting to become obsolete. What we are seeing now was facilitated by Steve Jobs in 2007, when he changed the name of the company from Apple Computers to simply Apple, because, visionary that he was, he was opening the door for the company to become an ecosystem.

Innovation is no longer enough. We have to go one step further. The pyramid of the five 'P's' tells us that, of course, we must innovate. The product (Product) and the customer are the basis and allow us to generate value for the market. We innovate by creating a good product and this, in turn, allows us to make profit, because without profit we can't get anywhere. But this is not enough. We need to be sustainable, both socially (People) and environmentally (Planet). Only when we are sustainable will we be able to avoid consuming tomorrow's resources to create today's activities. This should already be an imperative for any type of organisation. But we must go further. Even sustainability is becoming obsolete. You have to regenerate the world, you have to contribute positively. This is the top of the pyramid, which is to have an internal Purpose that makes us have a positive impact externally.

We can stay in profit, like traditional organisations, but we can go a step further. And this impact, as with Tesla, is going to unlock a wealth of opportunities that are opportunities to have a positive impact and to create business. That's why Tesla has so much more value in the marketplace, and in the world because, thanks to Tesla, the technology race in the energy area has begun. Tesla has made the rest of the car companies not to stay in their place, but to start pushing the electric car. So because of that, there are a lot of people and a lot of companies today trying to create a better world, while creating more business. That's why we say we are no longer in the age of technology, or the age of innovation, but we are in the age of positive impact.

Purpose Launchpad is a framework that helps us to have a positive impact. It is a work environment where we can apply exponential technologies, innovation methodologies, but, above all, it is oriented to evolve the mindset and create a positive impact on the world and the business. At the people level we find greater power because we are the people who move the known world. A common purpose can unite very different people. The Purpose Alliance community emerged to empower people and organisations to create a better world. Purpose Launchpad is the framework, which helps these people a lot. One tool of the framework, which applies a lot to people, is the MP Canvas tool, which helps them to discover their personal purpose.

On the other hand, there are startups and new products, which have a major challenge. When we have an innovative idea and we launch it, what usually happens is that we collide with reality and our plans fail. There is no business plan that survives the first contact with the market, with real customers, because a business plan is a set of hypotheses that we must evaluate. This is precisely where Purpose Launchpad comes in, which incorporates eight main axes: purpose; people, which includes the community and the team; customers; sustainability, including economic viability; abundance; processes; product and metrics. We are going to work through them all iteratively to achieve the outcome we are looking for.

One example is with the product axis. Airbnb is an organisation that offers private accommodation through the internet. If any of us wanted to do something similar, we would start by creating a website, making everything work and making it pretty to show it to the world. But Airbnb didn't start like that. Airbnb was a project of three entrepreneurs living in San Francisco. One of them decided to leave and the other two couldn't afford the rent. To be able to do so, they decide to buy an inflatable mattress, which they offer online with a good breakfast, which is why it is called Airbnb. As it starts to generate some income for them, they create an ad on a platform called Craigslist, which works very well in the United States, which is like a A Thousand Announcements. Thanks to this platform, they started renting out free rooms from people they knew and at some point they created the platform. It was at this moment when they understood that the key was to take professional photographs that allowed them to grow exponentially because the flats were easier to rent. They started to grow exponentially after four years because you have to take into account that you have to follow three fundamental phases.

The first is exploration, which is when we don't know what we don't know. The second is evaluation, which is when we have already chosen a path and we want to test which is the right one. And the last one is impact, which is when we scale up. These three phases are three mindsets, in which we are going to operate in a totally different way. These three phases, this way of seeing the world, must be applied to the eight axes.

The eight axes can also be evaluated. There is a tool, which we call the radar, in which, by asking a series of questions, we can see how our project is doing in a very graphic way. In this way, we will know where we need to put the focus and how to do it depending on the phase we are in. The radar will allow us to evolve little by little until we create that impact on the world, on the economy, on our business.

This also applies to corporations, which can and should create a positive impact. The fundamental problem that corporations have is that almost all of them feel like a mammoth, because they perceive that they can become extinct at any moment, because the environment is changing so much that they can become extinct if they don't evolve. The problem is that when we try to innovate in an organisation, the immune system always attacks. There is always an internal reaction where you are blocked because there are obstacles. The first digital camera that was invented was created by a Kodak employee, but his own bosses told him to stop it because it could kill his business, and it did.

Another example is the first personal computer. It was the Altair 8800. It was launched in 1975. At that time, IBM was the world's largest computer company and it was also trying to launch its own personal computer, but it couldn't because it was focused on big business. It had a B2B model, not a consumer-oriented B2C model. After several failed attempts, a famous market analyst went so far as to say that for IBM to successfully bring a personal computer to market was as difficult as for an elephant to tap dance, because it could not. In fact, it was in 1980, five years after trying numerous times, that John Opel, its CEO at the time, said that the problem was not the idea; the problem was that they were not putting the idea in the right environment and so it was not flourishing, so what we have to do is water it and give it the right nutrients. That's where he had William Lowe, a collaborator of his, who moved from the New York headquarters to Florida, where the team was free to do what they wanted to do. They had enough budget, they could break the rules and they could do things differently. This led to IBM's first personal computer in 1981, six years later. Whereupon, the elephant tap danced. In fact, Time magazine picked up on it, with a couple of covers devoted to IBM.

Guayante Sanmartín, one of HP's vice presidents, often says that the fact that, in an organisation, innovative ideas emerge and do well, is because the leader gave a clear purpose, sufficient rigour and the right environment. The purpose we have talked about, the rigour can be Purpose Launchpad or any other framework. The environment is the habitat, that is, what the initiative must have around it for it to flourish properly.

Purpose Launchpad also incorporates a series of applications aimed at large corporations, which can also be incorporated into small and medium-sized companies, such as the Impact Sprint, which makes us evolve the company in a few weeks and accelerate what happened with IBM, to create purpose-driven ecosystems, connect with them and evolve the organisation to create a positive impact on the business and the world.

At the end of the day, we are not corporations trying to evolve. We are people, which is what we have to realise. That the only way to evolve our projects, our lives, our organisations is by evolving ourselves. What we have to think about is how to become more human, because becoming more human will make everything better. Margaret Mead said that in history it has always been the same; that it was a small group of people who created the next version of the world. A group of civilised, purposeful, committed people. We are the known wave of the universe and it is up to us to create that next version of the world, of our environment.

It is not a question of technology, of methodology, or even of mentality. The key to it all is love, because love, which is the most powerful force in the universe, is what makes us give our lives for others, to do what we would otherwise not do, to commit ourselves to creating a better version of ourselves and the world.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for the comments, opinions or statements made by the people who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their sole responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio González, are the result of the debates held at the meeting held for this purpose at the Foundation and are the responsibility of the authors.

The Rafael del Pino Foundation is not responsible for any comments, opinions or statements made by third parties. In this respect, the FRP is not obliged to monitor the views expressed by such third parties who participate in its activities and which are expressed as a result of their inalienable right to freedom of expression and under their own responsibility. The contents included in the summary of this conference, written for the Rafael del Pino Foundation by Professor Emilio J. González, are the result of the discussions that took place during the conference organised for this purpose at the Foundation and are the sole responsibility of its authors.