In a world where seemingly everyone claims to be innovators, it’s easy to forget the true meaning of the word. In case you’re wondering, you can see the full, technical definition laid out in the header of this post. If not, just know that innovation is more than a charming buzzword to be placed neatly after ‘leverage’ and ‘blockchain’.

Of course, this isn’t to say that innovation isn’t out there. Due to our ability to collaborate and communicate ideas across the world at the pace that we do, some say that this is the most innovative time in history.

The Leaders

Innovation is completely subjective. What I view as an innovative breakthrough might not look the same to the next guy. When I think of innovation, a couple companies come to mind fairly quickly; most notably in tech: Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others along this same vein.

These companies have either disrupted their industry and changed the way we think, or they’ve created an industry in of itself. Both of these paths are synonymous with innovation.

For awhile, it seemed as if these tech giants could do no wrong. In a sense, they still can’t. It’s apparent that FAANG stocks seem to continuously rise and further build on their meteoric expectations, time and time again.

Newfound Immortality

However, we’ve seen recently that these innovative tech giants are beginning to show flaws. They are receiving more scrutiny from the public than ever before due to controversies, privacy concerns, and the growing awareness of tech addition.

Google recently walked out on Project Maven after a miniature internal uprising from employees began to form. Uber saw one of their self-driving cars strike and kill pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona after their software didn’t function properly. I’m sure you didn’t miss out on the Facebook scandal either, leaking private data from over 80 million users.

Keeping Perspective

We are entering a period of regulation in technology. The thought of this is honestly a bit scary, but undoubtedly necessary. We are currently living in the Wild West of technology. Artificial intelligence and machine learning has clearly grown too powerful to be overlooked and abused.

This post is inspired by a long read on Wired that I highly recommend you check out if you have the time. Personally, the following quote stuck with me the most:

“Facebook is only 13 years old, Twitter 11, and even Google is but 19. At this moment in the evolution of the auto industry, there were still no seat belts, airbags, emission controls, or mandatory crumple zones. ”

It’s easy to forget just how early on we are. We often lean on this misconception that things have been the way they are for a long time. This allows us to remain comfortable and allows leaders to avoid change, even when change is necessary. We think of these innovative tech giants with the most resources and smartest hires as unstoppable forces that can do no wrong. It’s clear now that this isn’t the case. We need seat belts, airbags, emission controls, and crumple zones.

I’m confident that we’ll get there, but it will take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the process certainly wasn’t a smooth one. There will be more mistakes, both large and small. There will be plenty more controversies and scandals. There will be debates, protests, and pushback from various parties. However, against all odds, we will persevere. We must.

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