People-Sized Solutions for Planet-Sized Problems

The bigger the current problem you are facing, the smaller the first solution should be. Otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge and never make sufficient progress.

The majority of innovation efforts aim to be too big from the outset and are therefore destined to fail, because they do not function on a human scale. In addition too many innovations are focussed on solving small and specific problems which don’t really make very much of a difference to anybody.

The world is now far too complex and unpredictable, that it’s become harder to make big bets on the future. So perhaps we should try a different approach and recognise that the next big thing will be a collection of small things instead, which satisfy the needs of people on a very local scale instead.

This approach was very much the ethos of the recent Go Detroit Challenge that we worked with Ford on and that wrapped up last week. In the debrief afterwards we talked about the winning solutions all solving the planet-sized problem of city mobility with a wide variety of people-sized solutions.

I particularly liked this idea of ‘people-sized solutions for planet-sized problems’ so I shared it afterwards on social media and it seemed to strike a chord with others too. One of the reasons why it resonated for me is because it very much encapsulates nicely what we always try to do through everything we do at 100%Open.

“We’re committed to developing mobility solutions for changing transportation needs worldwide. At the same time, we’re working to bring solutions to our backyard and the metro Detroit community, which is what Go Detroit is helping us accomplish.” Bill Ford

Reflecting on it further since then, one aspect of building more people-sized solutions is finding new and smarter models of investment and growth. In our experience too many start-up ventures chase expensive investment. Whilst this can be the right way to go if you need to scale fast and big, it’s typically the wrong way to scale for the vast majority of companies and most solutions.

93% of all high growth companies don’t have venture capital. And the vast majority of start up exits are via trade sales rather than IPO’s. And yet the innovation industry is obsessed with the glamour of the Silicon Valley VC backed start-up and neglects the less fashionable but vast majority of companies scaling new ideas through other means.

“In studying 479 high-growth companies among the Inc. 500|5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America, we have found that less than 7 percent of high-growth firms have received venture capital.” Kauffman Foundation

So we want to make the case for more collective creativity and effort to solve big and intractable issues that affect us all, with small and personalised solutions that work for individuals and small groups. This requires both new business models and a new people and planet-centric mindset. By embracing both then perhaps we can collectively make a bigger difference. After all, everything big starts small.

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