Empowering Innovation

What is the ultimate goal with innovation?

Is it to invent new exciting products? Products that are liked and used by people or provide value to their daily lives.

Or is it to change the world?


Photo: Kay Kim

Defining innovation is tricky. The word is often used without a meaningful content. One simple definition is a “new idea, device, or method”.

Scott Berkun says:

Innovation is significant positive change. It’s a result. It’s an outcome. It’s something you work towards achieving on a project. If you are successful at solving important problems, peers you respect will call your work innovative and you an innovator.”

What does significant mean?

How can you measure what is significant? Is it 25% or more improvement in something? Like less energy used to drive a vehicle. Is it something that changes the life of certain group in the world or in society?

What has been regarded as an innovation over the past 20 or 30 years has perhaps been more focused on disrupting markets rather than changing the world. And this is a problem.

We need more than a clever code to change the world. We need more than smart phones to change the world and transform it to a better place.

Today, you only need some basic coding skills to make changes, but perhaps what we need is people working together from different  fields to invent and design new ways that will make large impacts on the world.

Has the Apple changed the world? Would the world have been much different without an iPhone or Macintosh?

The point is not to diminish Steve Jobs’ accomplishments rather to make us more aware of what kind of innovations that are needed.

Identifying areas where scientists and designers can work together to make a real change may need some thinking. Yet, certain areas such as climate change, health care  and jobs are rather obvious candidates.

Climate change is described by Bill Gates as the central challenge of our time and he believes that we need to reduce global emission 80% by 2050. And it should be reduced to zero by the end of the century. Today we release 36 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

How are we going to feed people while we exhaust the resources that remains.The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations’ projections).

Species are ging extinct at a faster rate than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years. How much faster, well,  1, 000 times faster (see Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School).

Innovations are needed to solve many global issues and co-operation and discussions across borders may be necessary. Scientists and researchers from different  disciplines need to work together with designers to tackle some of these complex problems. But innovators also can work together on a local scale to tackle areas where the solutions may change the world to the people living in that area.

 Areas where innovators can work together to solve local problems. Local problems need loccal solutions.

  • Waste disposal
  • Saftey of kids
  • Kids health – safe to walk or cycle to school, safe to paly outdoors
  • Noise and light pollution
  • Litter
  • Pest control
  • Wild life
  • Care and facilities for elderly
  • Jobs for young people
So in a nutshell, we need ideas and innovations that transform lives across a wide variety of industries, healthcare, education, energy, transporation and wildlife.
The nature of the change and the way we challenge innovators is more important than the pace and the number of new innovations and ideas. We need to think rather than simply generate lots of ideas.
We need to start a new era of innovation where collaboration is a key competitive factor. We need to discover and build sustainable solutions that make an impact on life on Earth.


Even if you are not involved in these problems, it might be a good thinking exercise to start with one, multi-faceted, BIG WORLD problem, to nail it down to its essence and spend some time to create that single one idea that might make a difference. What if you might appear in the next version of this book?




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