You know how it is as you go round an art gallery with a diverse collection. Some pieces are exciting, even thrilling, whereas other pieces make you think “Oh, it’s just more of that sort of stuff, is it?” Your reaction is unique to you.
I often think of this when I come across a debate that tries to create a list of top innovations or innovators. We look at innovations in the same way we look at art.
There’s general agreement on the basic requirements of an innovation: originality and value creation. But beyond that there’s a world of highly subjective interpretations going on, based on personal values, experiences, knowledge, bias, and who knows what else.
Some people will immediately grade their ‘top 10’ innovations according to the amount of revenue they generate, even if the ideas themselves are a bit unimaginative; others are attracted to originality or some other inherent quality of the idea itself.
Personally, I can’t get excited about what I call the ‘let’s just coat it in chocolate’ innovations – the ones that take an existing product and add something predictable. They might have the ability to generate $billions, but they don’t feed my soul.
But if we can take originality and value and then add significant extra doses of courage, vision, and social good, then that’s even better. So my ultimate choice might be Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank. Using an innovative business model that any other bank would have sneered at, it has provided micro-credit to small groups of poverty-stricken people using no collateral, no legal contract, and no joint responsibility within the recipient group. It’s in profit, has a loan recovery rate of 97%, and it has transformed the lives of millions.
Naturally, you might have a different favourite – but hey, that’s art.