May 1, 1893. President Grover Cleveland flipped a switch, and under the dazzling glow of 160 thousand light bulbs, the World Columbian Exposition was officially opened. The World Columbian Exposition was often referred to as the “Fair that Changed America.” Also known as the Chicago World Fair, this was the event that gave birth to the future. The modern world will not be the same without the groundbreaking innovations presented in this fair. It introduced some of the quintessential American items such as Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit, Cracker Jack, the zipper, the dishwasher, the moving walkway, and the Ferris wheel.
The most significant innovation presented in this fair was Nikola Tesla’s alternating current. At the height of the so-called “War of Currents” Tesla’s innovation, financially backed by Pittsburg industrialist George Westinghouse, has helped accelerate human progress.
The years between 1860 and early 1900s were marked by unprecedented industrial and technological developments. Innovations that had significant impact on human lives were discovered in this era. This period gave us the automobile, airplane, television and radio, photography, and computer. This list goes on. The world was at the heart of frenzied technological revolution. This was because of the great demand for technologies that could help improve the quality of people’s lives. Moreover, inventors were able to gain support from various institutions for their bold ideas and technological breakthroughs.
Disruption in the 21st Century
Innovation in the 21st century has taken a different form. It has been overturning a lot of conventions and goes by its new name—disruption. The world has been trying to keep up with disruptive forces such as the Internet of Things, Cloud, Mobility, Automation, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence. Not to mention the challenges of the modern world such as the shifting political and societal landscape, and environmental changes. The challenge to our society is to create an environment that supports and allows technological advancement while confronting these forces.
How to Create an Ecosystem That Supports Innovation
Disruptions turn traditional business models upside down. The need for a more resilient and more efficient innovation infrastructure has become more crucial. Cities and communities must create ecosystems that supports innovation.
- First is to create a network. Cities and communities must create a platform where innovators can meet investors; apprentice can find mentors; companies to touch base with experts and consultants. A growing number of cities across the country are following this concept. Tampa Bay Region in Florida is a great example. Through Synapse, the city has been creating opportunities for startups and new entrepreneurs to introduce the next innovation.
- Make the network dynamic and responsive. Creating a venue where players in the innovation game can meet is just the first step. The next step is to make these networks responsive to the needs of the community. There has to be a mechanism where innovators can reach out to each other and share experiences. Best practices should easily spread and diffuse across the community.
- Allow innovations to thrive. Startups and new businesses are often at the mercy of market response. Cities and communities must create a system for fast and early innovation adoption. Educating the market is vital because commitment to a product or service stems from a compelling value proposition.
The progressive development of the humankind is dependent on innovation. We are making ourselves ready for the future when we create infrastructures that support innovation. But disruptions are definitely going to touch us. The question now is when and up to what degree. Let the innovators innovate. This is the only way to be ready.