Photo by Riccardo Annandale via Unsplash
Innovating has always been an important human activity. It’s led to tools and agriculture and cities and an ever-increasing quality of life. This work was — in the past — largely the domain of the privileged few. Kings and queens spurred innovation by spending money to create ever-advancing ships, castles, and weaponry. Even in the Industrial Age, only a few families had enough wealth to afford the kind of education that empowered James Watt and Thomas Newcomen to create the steam engine. Only people and organizations with enough resources were able to create the next great thing.
But we’ve now reached an inflection point in the evolution of innovation. No longer the bastion of the elite, innovation is being democratized. Every year, individuals from humble backgrounds break onto the scene with billion-dollar companies. Take Instagram. The photo sharing app was built by a pair of entrepreneurs in their twenties over the course of just eight weeks. Two years later, they sold their company to Facebook for a billion dollars. Of course, Instagram isn’t the only story of David defeating Goliath. Slack, Uber, Netflix, and hundreds startups like them faced competition from some of the largest corporations in existence — but they all won.
Why is this change happening? Three societal forces have pushed us to this inflection point: Abundance, Access, and Automation.