We tend to focus an awful lot on innovation for technology and products. Which are fine, but there’s a different kind of improvement we need even more.

Redesigning our society.

This comes to mind because of recent protests of social injustice, yes. But I also look at what other places in our culture which are also broken:

  • The huge number of people without affordable health services
  • Industries which we often neglect but which are actually critical, such as our food supply
  • Our highly divided political structure
  • Organizations which have moved far from their role to benefit society
  • Weak points and fractures in our economy

What makes this especially hard is that involves thousands, millions, and even billions of people. Emotional people, who feel they have a stake in outcomes and are resistant to change.

But we also realize that innovation rarely comes from those who are powerful in the past system. That’s why startups and rebels are the ones who bring about change. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell whether that change will be positive or negative, and often there will be both winners and losers in any changed system.

We often forget that there are already winners and losers in our EXISTING system. Winners, the ones with power, are first to resist any change because “there’s nowhere to go but down.” And all the rest tend to have insufficient influence over the powerful.

It’s the startups and rebels who help us break out of this pattern.

The ones who succeed are those who produce innovation which is highly valued by those who will fight to sustain the change. In the case of business, it’s customers. For charities, it’s the beneficiaries and donors. For government, it’s the voters and the families they represent.

The most powerful force is to understand what those stakeholders need, and do a better job of delivering it than the previous alternative. Then use the stakeholders’ energy, influence and money to expand the change and make it sustainable. That’s Innovation 101.

What does a new and improved society look like? We have some trial balloons such as the ACA or Universal Basic Income or For-Benefit Corporations. All are imperfect, but this is the way society learns.

Your role is to:

  • Support and encourage the kind of new society you’d like us to become
  • Apply your innovation skills to social problems where you can make a difference

It’s the startups and rebels who will help fix our problems.

This article was first published in InnovatioNews.