Opinion

The Next Wave of Improbable Innovation

Tensie Whelan

By Tensie Whelan

The businesses and leaders that succeed in the future are those that are able to recognize the myriad opportunities for innovation and translate radical ideas into functioning, real world applications.

By Tensie Whelan

Innovation is fun. Innovation is money. Innovation is leadership. We all want more of it.

The past 20 years have been characterized by innovation that democratizes access to information, entertainment, products and services through platform companies such as Spotify, Amazon and Facebook, as well as technologies such as blockchain. While technological and business innovation continues, there is growing backlash against some of its unintended consequences, such as growth becoming dependent on monetizing consumer data. Thankfully though, there are leaders and investors in improbable places—a legacy rubber company or new materials start up Modern Meadow, for example—that are pushing innovation in new and different directions with the goal of using business’ superpower, innovation, to tackle global challenges and make money.

So what does the future hold? Picture this: A Goodyear tire that is made from solid recycled rubber, printed from a 3D printer, with embedded moss and AI in the hubcap. The solid rubber means it lasts longer. The embedded moss makes the tire stickier on the road in wet conditions, thus improving safety. It also sucks in carbon dioxide and emits oxygen, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The AI function enables the tire to be used in autonomous vehicles.

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Tensie Whelan is a Clinical Professor of Business and Society and Director of the Center for Sustainable Business.