When you’re building something that you believe in — whether it’s something that has the huge power to shake the foundations of everything that has come before it or just a simple idea that keeps you awake at night — your dream is to innovate.
Innovative thinking requires boundless thinking. It requires you to shake off the shackles of the standard and systemised and popularly accepted thought processes and patterns that you’ve been imprinted with. It requires you to conceptualise without limits.
That’s why innovation doesn’t need permission.
“In fact, it’s why innovation bucks against permission, and bucks against the staid and the conservative, and bucks against the frameworks that regulate the world.”
The problem is, while innovation doesn’t need permission, it needs a few things that are a whole lot more important.
It needs empathy. Empathy for the people and the cultural mores that are swept aside or discarded by technological and social innovation and change.
It needs sensitivity. Sensitivity to the factors that go beyond the spreadsheets and the dashboards and the conversion charts.
It needs ethics. Ethics that guide what we can and can’t do, in the mission to build and grow and acquire and change. Ethics that tell us what is and is not acceptable behaviour.
It needs inclusion. Inclusion that can ensure that we don’t just innovate for people who look, talk, dress and fuck like us. Inclusion that could stop us from building hand soap dispensers that only recognise white people.
Uber innovated. But they also showed an astonishing lack of empathy, sensitivity, ethics, and inclusion that have damaged their brand, distracted from what they set out to do, and poisoned so much of the positive innovation they created.
Innovation is a human good. We need it. I believe in it. It’s why I’m in startups today. But it’s not an absolute good, and it needs to be tempered and forged with elements that bring out its positivity and its edge.
[This post by Jon Westenberg first appeared on Medium and has been reproduced with permission.]