Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos went into orbit just a few days ago. The space cowboys are back and with them the space race, the greatest metaphor of growth. The key message is that Earth is no longer enough, and we need to take humanity into new spaces to grow.
If we just measure the time spent ‘in space’, Branson and Bezos’ experiments were short-lived compared to the moon landing in 1969: the latter took a few days, and the former lasted only a few minutes. The progression of technology since the 60’s has been phenomenal; today’s smartphones have a technological complexity hundreds of times greater than the technology used for the moon landing. Despite this, Branson and Bazos were less interested in sending professional astronauts to conquer new frontiers, and more interested in working on getting ‘everyday’ people into the sky, perhaps to first serve the burgeoning market for space tourism, and possibly tend to humanity’s expansion to new worlds.
Could it be that the rhetoric of conquest as a metaphor for growth, has become out-of-date, and the time for something different, more humanity-focused, has eventually come?
The time for innovative collaboration has come
Put simply, talking about economic growth today means finding out how to enlarge the economic pie, and this means ensuring inclusivity for as many people as possible.
There are innumerable opportunities to increase inclusivity and collaboration in the world, and despite many successes, today’s innovators are still falling short when crises arise. If we look at today’s pandemic, we have seen examples of an ineffective global collaboration between more economically prosperous countries and less developed countries along the road to a truly global vaccination plan, which has led to the prevailing of health inequalities in poorer regions. This situation alone has highlighted the need to collaborate in more innovative ways.
Indeed, if we think about the experience of the moon landing, it was the public-private partnership that helped achieve something great, as Mariana Mazzucato brilliantly recalls in her Mission Economy. A moonshot guide to changing capitalism.
How entrepreneurs can lead the charge
As social innovators, entrepreneurs can contribute to closing the inequality gap for a more sustainable and inclusive form of society. What to do and how is the story we can write now.
Drawing inspiration from ‘Mission Economy’ which outlines how we can solve today’s biggest problems if we apply the same level of boldness and experimentation, here are 5 key concepts to build into your startup model:
- Your community comes first: Entrepreneurs should start thinking about themselves as innovators tasked with solving the biggest challenges suffered by their community
- Engage with all your possible stakeholders: Listen to local, regional, national and global voices, to empathize with different issues and experiences. These are your ingredients to find the issues that matter.
- Define the specific problem: After doing your research, what’s the exact challenge you are trying to address? Be as specific as possible. You are looking for the pain point of your community. Find it and focus on that.
- Create never-seen-before ideas: Work with your team to generate new ideas. Make the most of the existing techniques out there, from brainstorming to other methods like SCAMPER, lateral thinking, and so on, don’t be afraid to explore the unknown. Do not discard wild ideas.
- Build according to feedback: Pick up one idea, work on it in the most agile way you can, and get back to your community. Test your solution with them, get feedback and get back to fine-tune your solution. At the end of the day, you are building your future with your people.
The era of the heroes of capitalism is over
We need to start innovating solutions that correspond to the challenges in the world where we live, using a holistic and coordinated approach. That means thinking less of an entrepreneur as the hero driving a spaceship, and more of a leader lifting up and taking a community forward. To truly rejuvenate capitalism, we need catalysts of change embedded in our communities.