“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
– Walt Disney (credited in Pixar’s ‘Meet the Robinsons’)
Based on the bright lights and glitzy gadgets coming out of the tech industry, we are now sold on the mantra of innovation. The industry has gotten us used to a new kind of scientific engineering. We wait to see if its innovators stand the test of time.
On the other hand, Thomas Edison’s legacy in GE continues to advance the welfare of the world while making billions. GE’s present market capitalization stands at over US$259 billion. The company now focuses on crowdsourcing innovation. So while Edison was driven by his innate curiosity, he wisely gave us innovations that made the world better. In return, he found enduring wealth and prosperity beyond his generation.
Go ahead – do something new. Make it different. Make it something we never knew we needed. But we challenge you this year to look beyond innovation. Build with wisdom that lasts.
Innovation led to Facebook. Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. We think it’s safe to assume that the company has succeeded in meeting its mission in a profitable way. The company now stands at a value of US$200 billion. Facebook works because people are hungry for connections that matter to them. Geography and economics made it difficult to maintain connections. When Facebook took our regular reunions digital, the world noticed. So how is the social network being used to expand connections that are important to societies?
Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus uses Facebook to help connect rich lenders and donors to the poor micropreneurs on Yunus Social Business. A social business is “a non-loss, non-dividend company dedicated entirely to achieving a social goal. In social business, the investor gets his/her investment money back over time, but never receives dividend beyond that amount.”
Known as an innovator of microfinance, Professor Yunus and Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below.” This can be categorized as wisdom beyond innovation.
Wisdom is that old fashioned word that equates to applying what you know in a meaningful way, sensitive to its impact on others. And what you know may come from your own experiences or others experiences. For the entrepreneur, persistent poverty affects his economy. Professor Yunnus saw that creating a class of micropreneurs would reduce poverty. This in turn reduces the negative impact of poverty on societies.
“I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon. You know those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram, and the holy water, and he’s like — Yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon? Doesn’t work out.”
– Elon Musk, Tesla CEO
What’s the use of building something new that has a high probability of eventually destroying us? Tesla founder Elon Musk has warned against the unfettered development of artificial intelligence. But do we think of other innovations in this way? Do we consider how social media analytics could be used for evil, without the proper self-imposed oversight? Or even how we scrimp on paying our small staff because we want to expand the business at a rapid pace? Wisdom, shares an office with prudence, knowledge and discretion. So give it a seat at your desk alongside innovation.
Even GE has acknowledged that no one has a patent on new ideas. So your small business will be competing with countless others to stand out and to really matter. How are you going to do this? Is it always going to be mainly about your next product or next profit year? Or will you consider how making that innovation a reality will impact users, your staff, your children, yourself?
In 2015, resolve to build something bigger than yourself, your country or even your continent. Appoint wisdom as the craftsman at your side, upcycling your innovative ideas.
We wish you a prosperous New Year filled with many new ideas and age old wisdom.