The Whereabouts of the Next Big Innovation

We, as a group of human beings, always tend to believe that the best things are lying ahead of us. Whatever has happened was good, the present scenario is not that great, but the future is what will alleviate all our sufferings. With this line of thought, it is only normal for us to think that the next big thing is yet to come up – and I do abide by this. Now, when I talk about the next big ‘thing’, I am referring to an innovation that would not only be disruptive but also inclusive. To add some context to what I am talking about, it would be pertinent to recall how the great Mr Dhirubhai Ambani revolutionized the mobile telecommunication industry in India. Putting a mobile phone in the pocket of every Indian citizen was a dream that he dreamt and also brought to fruition.

It would be difficult for me to pin-point exactly what the next big innovation is going to be, which sector would it be catering to, and when can we expect it to see the light of day. But what I do have a little idea about is where we can expect the innovation to come from and what would be its impact on society at large. It is very easy to identify the sectors which are seeing the highest growth rates and put our money on any one of them. It would also make sense to some people to go through the disciplines where the most number of Nobel Prizes have been awarded over the last two decades, and say that one of them would spark off the next big innovation. But that does not always work out. Hence, that debate would be an endless one.

My understanding says that the innovation is going to come from people who need it the most. A logical approach would be to identify nations plagued with problems yet having a flavour for research and scientific discovery. If that be true, then the developing nations come under the purview of such countries. An interesting new trend that has come up in recent times is the fact that the adjectives used for the word ‘problem’ have become fusion words. For example, in a global or a societal context, we no longer use terms like – ‘political problems’, ‘economic problems’, or ‘technological problems’. They have been replaced by terms like – ‘socio-political problems’, ‘socio-economic problems’, or ‘techno-political problems’. This suggests that the realms or spheres affected by a particular problem are broadening and the same time also overlapping. Hence, the next big innovation is going to have to be a panacea for multiple issues.

Now, let me talk about the effect(s) that this change should have on the people. If I were to summarize it in one sentence, I would say that the next big innovation would seek to unify the masses rather than discriminate among them. It would serve as a frame of common reference that would be accessible and more importantly, affordable for the majority of the populace. This is in line with what I had mentioned previously – that the change mandatorily needs to be inclusive. If we take the example of a country as diverse as India where the society is both horizontally and vertically stratified, then it needs to percolate and positively impact people from all those strata. In other words, it should be a means to try and demolish the incumbent diversity in society.

Another very important aspect that needs attention is recognizing the innovation when it happens and giving it the due support. This support needs to be in the form of financial backing, technical expertise, regulatory clearances, etc. It is very easy to dismiss ideas as either too ambitious or too redundant and in doing so, we might have already lost out on a million viable ones that were worth pursuing. The spirit of entrepreneurship needs to be rekindled at the earliest and it needs to be done everywhere in the world, especially in places which are not very familiar with it. More tolerance towards entrepreneurial ideas would imply more people putting creative thought into solving persistent problems and consequently, would imply better solutions and enhanced productivity levels.

I have always maintained that entrepreneurship would be the means for both job creation as well as wealth creation, and hence, investing in it is non-negotiable for any country. Once this is taken care of, the next big innovation would just be a matter of time. The only flipside to it would be the fact that we would realize its impact only in hindsight. But that should not be a major deterrent at all because, at the same time, it gives all of us an equal opportunity of becoming great and making it to the pages of history.