Why Innovation Is Important

Why Innovation Is Important (& Should Not Be Taken For Granted)

  • Future Thinking  Sustainability

  •   by Richly Wills

  • Future Thinking  Sustainability
  •   by Richly Wills

  • Innovation once wowed us. Today it’s taken for granted, but there’s a big human-centred reason why innovation is important not to be taken as such.

    In search of understanding why innovation is important for the sake of humanity then we should jump on board a flight. Quickly. It’s boarding.

    We’re on.

    The plane takes off as we are pushed back into our seats. The everyday norm of the hustle and bustle starts to fade away as people settle in their seats and the plane takes off and elevates through the clouds, and then suddenly peace and tranquility find their way through the white noise of the engines.

    The window seat offers a lookout into the universe, and as the plane elevates further the buildings below that once looked intimidating in grandeur now look like tiny little Lego pieces from afar.

    Perspective changes and now the world that can seem so big in real time now seems like a dream from far away.

    No longer do the nuisances of life seem to be so worrying. Instead, the thoughts shift to a world far away, and how this sun shines brightly, how we are drifting on the fringes of the planet and able to see the horizon of the world, surrounded by the shifting clouds in the atmosphere.

    Suddenly, there’s not another soul in sight (okay, apart from the other passengers), but with a window to gaze out of and take our thoughts away from any potential distractions that people tend to bring.

    Yet am I the only one staring out into the sky with such awe?

    I imagine a time where the plane was so fresh and new, where window seats probably cost double, such was the allure of having the best view into a vista that wasn’t possible to experience before.

    Today things have changed. Innovation is no longer a wonder, it’s just an expectation. After a few flights, or a few hundred flights, the allure of the world’s horizon out your window somehow fades away. People prefer to have a seat nearer the aisle, closer to the toilet. Of course, human survival needs always take preference in people’s minds.

    One day, I imagine, will this be the same when people take a flight to Mars?

    Phones must seem like such primitive tools to our future species. While it may seem like a long time away the vast rate of innovation is bringing the void between dream and reality closer each day, and then what will we wonder about?

    For all the talk about the need to innovate and to avoid standing still, there comes a danger in peaking too soon, or not considering the consequences of ‘over-innovation’. Creating too much too quickly gives us no time to embed it, to appreciate it.

    Like with phones, there’s always the look forward to the next model rather than being impressed or even satisfied with the one you already have. Compare that phone to one just a few years ago and it’s like a rocketship, but compare it to what will follow and we may consider it a relic before it’s had a chance to breathe.

    Back to that window.

    Now it brings up thoughts of just how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. When you see a building from afar looking like a block of Lego, you don’t think about the hours of research, worry, or survivalist competition that goes into getting that top-floor corner office, you just think about how small and brittle it looks.

    You start thinking about why people are so ingrained to fight for such things when it seems so insignificant from above.

    Yet we don’t live in the clouds, and when we are on the ground the weight of expectation, the surrounding noise shouts so much louder at us. Yet for this brief moment looking down the world seems so peaceful and small.

    It has the effect of taking away worries, as you detach yourself from all the squabbling, the social media, the news, so much information that passes through one ear and out the other each day, but which seemingly takes up our energy as it does.

    To look into the clouds might seem like emptiness but actually it teaches us a valuable lesson.

    No matter what we are occupying our minds with on the busy streets down below, we have the power to escape it, to not get drawn into it. It doesn’t have to be a plane flight either. It can be by closing your eyes, finding a new vista that provides stimulus to change your thought patterns, or by releasing serotonin in other ways like laughing or drawing.

    So, what does all this have to do with the importance of innovation in a human sense of not taking it for granted, I hear you ask?

    For a second there, my mind got a bit lost in the clouds, but that is precisely the point.

    The point is not to bury our heads in the sand, but to set them free in the clouds. To remember how we are creative individuals who don’t need to get sucked in by all the surrounding noise, and therefore can find the wonder in creating and innovating solutions we need to make life easier, and the world more harmonious.

    Unfortunately, innovation has become something that is just expected rather than marveled at, and this actually causes our brain problems.

    When we take everything around us for granted two things may happen. We either aren’t impressed by anything anymore, and therefore stop trying to imagine how to seek any improvement, or we expect Mars right now when still living on Earth.

    While the latter might not sound like an issue to innovation, after all having big dreams feeds innovation right? Well, the issue is not about innovating ways we can live on Mars, but in how we develop over-expectations in getting there.

    You see, innovation is simply problem-solving at its core, and you can be sure there’s a mountain (or space load) of problems on the way to making a planet habitable. For most of us though we tend to have very little to do with the innovative steps take by scientists and engineers to make that dream possible.

    Instead, people dream and speculate, but this can have the effect of eliminating the wow factor, especially when we focus on such large-scale projects like heading to Mars. Back on earth, nothing ends up impressing or inspiring us as much.

    This isn’t good though as it switches our minds off from seeking out solutions ourselves. We may just expect all this technology to appear and turn up, think we aren’t in a position to do anything about it personally, or feel innovation just changes so quickly it becomes impossible for us to keep up.

    When we think of innovation as such grand projects that only multi-millionaires or billionaires can afford then it makes the rest of us feel like we have little chance of creating a difference ourselves. 

    Not taking innovation for granted is important because without wonder in how we can improve our world’s structures and functions then we also stop working together to improve as humanity. The very fabric of innovating is not about just problem-solving for problem-solving’s sake, but ensuring we have enough wonder in our minds to want to keep creating and innovating in the first place.

    What drove innovation before was the need to improve as humanity. With no other species is as master of tools as we are every aspect of our daily lives has measurably improved from the lives we had just 100 years ago, but our success has also led to a perpetual state of comfort that is expectant on technology improving without being wowed by it.

    This is potentially damaging to future innovative minds as it can lead to fresh ideas either drying up (as we settle to much in comfort), or we don’t see the different needs of humanity moving forward.

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    We have to ensure that what we innovate today is sustainable towards a better world tomorrow, so it’s not about being wowed by a faster gadget as such anymore, but being wowed about how that gadget is zero-waste, which is understandably a harder sell to human consciousness.

    Therefore, we have to start getting more people involved in the process of innovating, and to bring back the wow factor when we do. And it doesn’t have to only be the billionaires, scientists, and engineers, it can be any of us, at any moment.

    Yes, we need to think about problem-solving on a large scale, but what’s arguably even more important is to think about how innovation can work on a more local scale.

    That’s hard to do when everything is expected these days, but it’s not about amazing the masses with high-tech gadgets, but through bringing about wonder to each of us in different ways, as innovation is something within all of us.

    We can each create something of value to add to this world, and instead of looking down from the plane with the ground seemingly so insignificant compared to its vast surrounding skies, we may look down and be excited by what we have done to add to it.

    Back to the window.

    The flight is getting readied for landing. It’s night now. That insignificant spec of dust in the distance now belongs to the airport runway lights that will ensure that this very real and close-up plane, with all its passengers, have a place to safely land and disembark from.

    That airport will then look very significant indeed. The baggage claim, the immigration check, and before that, the pretty pointless scramble to get your bag first and then wait as the plane doors aren’t even open yet.

    Clearly some people didn’t take the same flight I did. That was just another few hours of life moving from one point to the next to them. To me it was an opportunity to question life itself.

    That’s the key behind keeping an open mind and being able to see through the eyes of an innovator though. You have to be looking to see what next whilst enjoying what is now. The possibilities always present themselves when you look for them.

    For the bag rustlers desperate to get off the plane and back to busy reality, and who looked out the window once to collate their perfect Instagram photo of ‘I was here’, if you can’t get out of the proverbial sand when you are high up in the sky then I don’t know when you will, but for those of you who aren’t busy ostriches obsessing over their next meal after just eating, then hopefully this has been an eye-opener in how we can innovate so much better when we simply look to see things in a different way and take our head out of that proverbial sand.

    While the importance of innovation is unquestionable and obvious for businesses, we should really consider the impact it has on us as humans more.