If you want to solve a big problem, harness technology to advance toward your goal. But beware of getting too emotionally wedded to a narrow objective or overinvesting in high-end tools.
Instead, focus on triggering a chain reaction of incremental success. Follow the roadmap laid out by Peter Diamandis, an engineer who founded the X Prize Foundation that spurs scientific breakthroughs by staging global competitions.
Diamandis, 54, urges leaders to innovate with this six-part framework:
1. Digitization. For centuries, humans transferred knowledge largely by telling stories around a campfire. Writing and the printing press came next.
But the digital age enables thinkers to archive and share ideas using computers. Any insight that’s digitized can spread through the Internet at great speed, allowing others to build on that concept exponentially.
2. Disruption. Innovations upend existing markets. Products and services fall by the wayside as digitally empowered entrepreneurs unveil their latest ideas.
Example: With 144,000 employees, Kodak was once worth $10 billion. Instagram hit $10 billion in market cap with just 13 employees.
3. Deception. In the early stages of a breakthrough innovation, only a few people take notice. Incumbent companies (the Kodaks of yesteryear) dismiss the competitive threat posed by new technologies until a sudden surge in growth quickly makes once-mighty companies obsolete.
4. Demonetization. As new technologies overtake the old, innovative products get cheaper. Consider that digital photos are almost free to take and share with others.
5. Dematerialization. Along with falling costs, new inventions wipe out entire categories of products that existed for decades. A smartphone can double as a camera, watch, music player, calculator and flashlight. This tiny device possesses more processing power than state-of-the-art supercomputers once had.
6. Democratization. Another benefit of lower prices is breakthroughs become affordable to billions of people.
— Adapted from Bold, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Simon & Schuster.