Tag Archives: environment

Innovation or Not – Liquid Trees

Innovation or Not - Liquid Trees

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Innovation has become the driving force behind progress in today’s world. From cutting-edge technologies to groundbreaking scientific discoveries, we are continuously witnessing the power of human ingenuity. However, amidst all the revolutionary advancements, it is essential to question what truly defines innovation. Do we only consider groundbreaking and high-tech inventions as innovative? Or can innovation be found in something as simple as nature itself?

One such marvel of nature that challenges our perception of innovation is the concept of liquid trees. Unlike traditional trees, liquid trees are not rooted in the ground, nor do they possess a solid structure. Instead, they are composed of water particles suspended in the air, forming swirling, fluid-like formations. And while this might seem like a whimsical notion, it holds the potential to revolutionize our understanding of sustainability and environmental conservation.

Liquid trees, also known as aeroplankton or aeroplanktic organisms, are a prominent example of biomimicry – the imitation of nature’s designs to solve human problems. By emulating the way these organisms harness air and water for sustenance, we can develop innovative solutions for resource management and energy production.

One of the most striking aspects of liquid trees is their ability to extract moisture from the atmosphere. Just like traditional trees draw water from the ground through their roots, these ethereal counterparts can collect airborne water particles and convert them into a usable form. This unique trait makes liquid trees a potential solution for regions facing water scarcity.

Imagine a world where buildings are equipped with liquid tree-inspired systems that capture and condense atmospheric water vapor, providing a sustainable source of freshwater. Not only would this technology alleviate the pressure on depleted groundwater reserves but it would also reduce our carbon footprint by eliminating the need for energy-intensive water treatment processes.

Aeroplankton also holds promise in the realm of renewable energy. The flow and circulation of air around liquid trees are akin to those in wind turbines, presenting an opportunity for wind energy innovation. By mimicking the dynamics of these floating organisms, we can design wind turbines that are more efficient and less intrusive to the environment. Imagine harnessing clean energy from the gentle swaying of these ethereal structures, without the need for expansive wind farms blotting the landscape.

Moreover, liquid trees can serve as a reminder of the beauty and resilience found in nature. In an increasingly urbanized world, where concrete jungles replace lush green forests, we often lose sight of the wonders around us. The concept of liquid trees challenges us to appreciate the elegance and adaptability of nature’s designs and incorporate them into our own technological advancements.

Innovation is not limited to high-tech gadgets or intricate algorithms. It encompasses any creative solution that pushes the boundaries of what we perceive as possible. Liquid trees serve as a humbling reminder that sometimes the most ingenious ideas can be found in the simplest of forms.

As we strive for sustainable solutions and progress towards a greener future, let us not overlook the lessons nature has to offer. By embracing the concept of liquid trees and exploring its applications, we can redefine innovation and lead the way towards a more harmonious coexistence with our environment. After all, the true test of innovation lies in our ability to find inspiration in the natural world and create something truly extraordinary.

But There is Another Kind of Liquid Tree

Innovation continues to surprise us with extraordinary ideas that challenge our perception of what is possible. One such remarkable innovation in the field of sustainability is the Liquid 3 photo-bioreactor. Drawing inspiration from liquid trees and biomimicry, these photo-bioreactors take the concept of harnessing renewable energy from nature to new heights.

Liquid 3 photo-bioreactors, also known as algae bioreactors, capitalize on the remarkable ability of photosynthetic microorganisms to convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into valuable products, including biofuels and high-protein biomass. These bioreactors consist of transparent acrylic tubes filled with a suspension of algae, which are then immersed in a liquid medium.

The process of photosynthesis takes place within the tubes as sunlight penetrates, providing energy for the algae to drive their growth. Depending on the specific intent, the algae can be engineered to produce specific compounds or simply utilized to capture and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the most significant advantages of Liquid 3 photo-bioreactors is their efficiency in converting sunlight into energy. Unlike traditional biofuel production methods, which require vast land areas for growing crops like corn or sugarcane, these bioreactors can be installed in smaller spaces, such as urban rooftops or alongside buildings’ exteriors. This vertical integration allows for the absorption of sunlight from various angles, optimizing energy capture.

Furthermore, Liquid 3 photo-bioreactors have shown impressive productivity compared to traditional crop-based systems. Algae in these bioreactors can multiply rapidly, thanks to their highly efficient nutrient absorption and growth rates, resulting in higher yields of valuable biomass. Additionally, algae cultivation does not compete with food crops for arable land, making it a sustainable alternative for biofuel and food production.

The potential applications for Liquid 3 photo-bioreactors extend beyond energy production. They have shown promise in wastewater treatment, where algae can effectively remove pollutants and excess nutrients from water bodies. This approach not only cleanses the water but also turns a waste product into a valuable resource, as the harvested algae can be further processed for various applications, including fertilizer production or bioplastics.

Liquid 3 photo-bioreactors emphasize the interconnectedness between sustainable energy production, environmental stewardship, and economic benefits. By utilizing these bioreactors, we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, mitigate climate change by capturing carbon dioxide, and generate valuable by-products that contribute to a circular economy.

As with any innovation, there are challenges to overcome. Scaling up the production and implementation of Liquid 3 photo-bioreactors remains an area of active research and development. Identifying the ideal algae strains for maximum productivity, optimizing the system’s design and operational parameters, and ensuring cost-effectiveness are all key factors to consider.

However, the potential benefits far outweigh the challenges. Liquid 3 photo-bioreactors offer a promising solution to the pressing global issues of energy sustainability, carbon emissions, and waste management. By embracing this innovative approach, we can make substantial progress towards a greener and more sustainable future.

In conclusion, Liquid 3 photo-bioreactors intertwine the principles of biomimicry, renewable energy, and circular economy. By emulating the efficiency of natural photosynthesis, these bioreactors bring us closer to achieving a harmonious and sustainable coexistence with our environment – absorbing carbon dioxide and adding oxygen to urban centers equivalent to the impact of two ten-year old trees. As we continue to explore and develop these remarkable technologies, let us remain open to the lessons nature has to offer, using innovation as a catalyst for positive change.

It will be interesting to see whether either of these types of liquid trees catch on. I guess only time will tell.

So, what do you think? Innovation or not?

Image credit: Liquid 3

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Preserving Ecosystems as an Innovation Superpower

Lessons from Picasso and David Attenborough

Preserving Ecosystems as an Innovation Superpower

GUEST POST from Pete Foley

We probably all agree that the conservation of our natural world is important. Sharing the planet with other species is not only ethically and emotionally the right thing to do to, but it’s also enlightened self-interest. A healthy ecosystem helps equilibrate and stabilize our climate, while the potential of the largely untapped biochemical reservoir of the natural world has enormous potential for pharmaceuticals, medicine and hence long-term human survival.

Today I’m going to propose yet another reason why conservation is in our best interest. And not just the preservation of individual species, but also the maintenance of the complex, interactive ecosystems in which individual species exist.

Biomimicry: Nature is not only a resource for pharmaceuticals, but also an almost infinite resource for innovation that transcends virtually every field we can, or will imagine. This is not a new idea. Biomimicry, the concept of mimicking natures’ solutions to a broad range of problems, was first coined by Janine Benyus in 1997. But humans have intuitively looked to nature to help solve problems throughout history. Silk production in ancient bio-technology that co-opts the silk worm, while much of early human habitations were based on caves, a natural phenomenon. More recently, Velcro, wind turbines, and elements of bullet train design have all been attributed to innovation inspired by nature.

And Biomimicry, together with related areas such as biomechanics and bio-utilization taps into the fundamental core of what the front end of innovation is all about. Dig deep into virtually any innovation, and we’ll find it has been stolen from another source. For example, early computers reapplied punch cards from tapestry looms. The Beatles stole and blended liberally from the blues, skiffle, music hall, reggae and numerous other sources. ‘Uberization’ has created a multitude of new business from AirBNB to nanny, housecleaning or food prep services. Medical suturing was directly ‘stolen’ from embroidery, the Dyson vacuum from a sawmill, oral care calcium deposition technology was reapplied from laundry detergents, etc., etc..

Picasso – Great Artists Steal! This is also the creative process espoused by Pablo Picasso when he said ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’. He ‘stole’ elements of African sculpture and blended them with ideas from contemporaries such as Cézanne to create analytical cubism. In so doing he combined existing knowledge in new ways that created a revolutionary and emergent form of art – one that asked the viewer to engage with a painting in a whole new way. Innovation incarnate!

Ecosystems as an Innovation Resource: The biological world is the biggest potential source of potential innovative ideas we have at our disposal anywhere.  Hence it is an intuitive place to go looking for ideas to solve our biggest innovation challenges. But despite many people trying to leverage this potential goldmine, including myself, it’s never really achieved its full potential. For sure, there are a few great examples, such as Velcro, bullet train flow dynamics or sharkskin surfaces. But given how long we’ve been playing in this sandbox, there are far too few successes. And of those, far too many are based on hindsight, as opposed to using nature to solve a specific challenge. Just look at virtually any article on biomimicry, and the same few success stories show up year after year.

The Resource/Source Paradox. One issue that helps explain this is that the natural world is an almost infinite repository of information. That potential creates a challenging signal to noise’ search problem. The result is enormous potential, but coupled with almost inevitably high failure rates, as we struggle to find the most useful insights

Innovation is More than Ideation: Another challenge is that innovation is not just about ideas or invention; it’s about turning those ideas into practice. In the case of biomimicry, that is particularly hard, as the technical challenge of converting natural technology into viable commercial technologies is hampered because nature works on fundamentally different design principles, and uses very different materials to us. Evolution builds at a nano scale, is highly context dependent, and is result rather than theory led. Materials are usually organic; often water based, and are grown rather than manufactured.  Very different to most conventional human engineering.

Tipping Point: But the good news is that materials science, technology, 3D printing and computational and data processing power, together with nascent AI are evolving at such a fast rate that I’m optimistic that we will soon reach a tipping point that will make search and translation of natural innovations considerably easier than today. Self-learning systems should be able to more easily replicate natural information processing, and 3D printing and nano structures should be able to better mimic the physical constructs of natural systems. AI, or at least massively increased computing power should make it easier for us to both ask the right questions and search large, complex databases.

Conservation as an Innovation Superpower: And that brings me back to conservation as an innovation superpower. If we don’t protect our natural environment, we’ll have a lot less to search, and a lot less to mimic. And that applies to ecosystems as well as individual species. Take the animal or plant out of its natural environment, and it becomes far more difficult to untangle how or why it has evolved in a certain way.

Evolution is the ultimate exploiter of serendipity. It does not have to understand why something works, it simply runs experiments until it stumbles on solutions that do, and natural selection picks the winner(s). That leads to some surprisingly sophisticated innovation. For example, we are only just starting to understand the quantum effects used in avian navigation and photosynthesis. Migratory birds don’t have deep knowledge of quantum mechanics; the beauty of evolution is that they don’t need to. The benefit to us is that we can potentially tap into sophisticated innovation at the leading edge of our theoretical knowledge, provided we know how to define problems, where to look and have sufficient knowledge to decipher it and reduce it to practice. The bad news is that we don’t know what we don’t know. Evolution tapped into quantum mechanics millennia before we knew what it was, so who knows what other innovations lie waiting to be discovered as our knowledge catches up with the nature – the ultimate experimenter.

Ecosystems Matter: But a species without the context of its ecosystem is at best half the story. Nature has solved flight, deep-water exploration, carbon sequestration, renewable energy, high and low temperature resilience and so many more challenges. And it has also done so with 100% utilization and recycling on a systems basis. But most of the underlying innovations solve very specific problems, and so require deep understanding of context.

The Zebra Conundrum: Take the zebra as an example. I was recently watching a David Attenborough documentary about zebras. As a tasty prey animal surrounded by highly efficient predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas, the zebra is an evolutionary puzzle. Why has it evolved a high contrast coat that grabs attention and makes it visible from miles away? High contrast is a fundamental visual cue that means even if a predator is not particularly hungry; it is pretty much compelled to take notice of the hapless zebra. But despite this, the zebra has done pretty well, and the planes of Africa are scattered with this very successful animal. The explanation for this has understandably been the topic of much conjecture and research, and to this day remains somewhat controversial. But more and more, the explanation is narrowing onto a surprisingly obvious culprit; the tsetse fly. When we think of the dangers to a large mammal, we automatically think of large predators. But while zebras undoubtedly prefer to avoid being eaten by lions, diseases associated with tsetse fly bites kill more of them. That means that avoiding tsetse flies likely creates stronger evolutionary pressure than avoiding lions, and that is proving to be a promising explanation for the zebras coat. Far less flies land on or bite animals with stripes.  Exactly why that is remains debatable, and theories range from disrupting the flies vision when landing, to creating mini weather fronts due to differential heating or cooling from the stripes. But whatever the mechanism ultimately turns out to be, stripes stop flies. It appears that the obvious big predators were not the answer after all.

Context Matters: But without deep understanding of the context in which the zebra evolved, this would have been very difficult to unravel. Even if we’d conserved zebras in zoos, finding the tsetse fly connection without the context of the complex African savannah would be quite challenging. It’s all too easy to enthusiastically chase an obvious cause of a problem, and so miss the real one, and our confirmation bias routinely amplifies this.

We often talk about protecting species, but if, as our technology evolves to more effectively ‘steal’ ideas from natural systems, from an innovation perspective alone, preserving context, in the form of complex ecosystems may likely turn out to be at least as important as preserving individual species. We don’t know what we don’t know, and often the surprisingly obvious and critical answer to a puzzle can only be determined by exploring a puzzle in its natural environment.

Enlightened Self-Interest. Could we use an analogy to the zebra to help control malaria? Could we steal avian navigation for gps? I have no idea, but I believe this makes pursuing conservation enlightened self-interest of the highest order. We want to save the environment for all sorts of reasons, but one of the most interesting is that one-day, some part of it could save us.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Is Now the Time to Finally End Our Culture of Disposability?

Is Now the Time to Finally End Our Culture of Disposability?Quality used to mean something to companies.

A century ago, when people parted with their hard-earned money to buy something, they expected it to last one or more lifetimes.

Durability was a key design criteria.

But, as the stock market became more central to the American psyche and to executive compensation, the quality of available products and services began to decline in the name of profits above all else.


Ford Quality is job oneThere was a temporary consumer revolt decades ago that resulted in companies pretending that quality was more important than profits, but it didn’t last long. In the end, Americans accepted the decline in quality as outsourcing and globalization led to declining prices (and of course higher profits) and fewer goods carrying the “Made in the USA” label, quickly replaced by Japan, China, Mexico, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the rest.

An Inconvenient TruthAround the turn of the century we had the birth of the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) movement followed a few years later by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Perhaps people were beginning to wake up to the fact that our planet’s resources are not infinite and our culture of disposability was catching up to us.

But these movements failed to maintain their momentum and the tidal wave of stores stocking disposable goods continued unabated – dollar stores and party stores spread across the country like a virus. States like New York began shipping their garbage across borders as their landfills reached capacity. Unsold goods began being dumped on the African continent and elsewhere (think about all those t-shirts printed up for the team that didn’t end up winning the Super Bowl).

Is now the time for the winds to shift yet again in favor of quality and sustainability after decades of disposability?

Will more companies better embrace sustainability like Patagonia is attempting to do?

People have been complaining for years about the high cost to repair Apple products and the increasing difficulty of executing these repairs oneself. Recently Apple was FORCED by shareholder activists to allow people to repair their iPhones. Here is their press release that tries to put a positive spin on what they were pressured into doing.

This is the moment for shareholder activists and governments around the world to force companies to design for repairability, reuse and a true accounting of the costs of their products and services inflict upon the populace and the planet. The European Union and Mexico are working together towards this not just because the planet needs this, but because The Circular Economy Creates New Business Opportunities.

Meanwhile, Toyota recently announced that starting this year (2022) in Japan that they will retrofit late-model cars with new technology if the customer desires it. The company aims to let motorists benefit from new technology without having to buy a new car. The LoraxToyota calls this “uppgrading” and defines it as retrofitting safety and convenience functions, like blind spot monitoring, emergency braking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and the addition of a hands-free tailgate or trunk lid. Remodeling will also be an option and will include replacing worn or damaged parts inside and out, such as the upholstery, the seat cushions, and the steering wheel.

Are these two companies voluntary and involuntary actions the beginning of a trend – finally?

Or will the culture of disposability continue unabated until our natural resources are exhausted?

Do we truly live in the land of the Lorax?

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons, OldHouseOnline

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Future of Sustainable Packaging: Innovations and Best Practices

Future of Sustainable Packaging: Innovations and Best Practices

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

In the era of environmental consciousness, businesses around the world are actively working towards adopting sustainable packaging practices. As consumers increasingly demand eco-friendly alternatives, it is essential for companies to incorporate innovative solutions to reduce waste and promote a greener future. This article explores the future of sustainable packaging, highlighting key innovations and best practices through the analysis of two case studies.

Case Study 1: Loop – Closing the Loop on Packaging

Loop, a global initiative by TerraCycle, aims to address the problem of waste generated by single-use packaging. Loop revolutionizes packaging by introducing a reusable model. Businesses partnering with Loop offer everyday products in durable, refillable containers, eliminating the need for single-use packaging. Customers order products online, receiving them in customized, returnable packaging. Once products are consumed, consumers simply return the empty containers via a provided carrier service, completing the loop. The containers are then meticulously cleaned, refilled, and made ready for reuse. This innovative approach significantly reduces packaging waste and encourages a circular economy mindset.

Loop’s success lies in creating a collaborative ecosystem comprising various stakeholders. Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, and PepsiCo have partnered with Loop to integrate their products into the reusable packaging platform. Through this collaboration, Loop is able to tackle packaging waste at scale while offering an exciting and convenient shopping experience for consumers. Such initiatives serve as a powerful example of how innovation can transform the packaging industry.

Case Study 2: Ecovative Design – Mushroom-Based Packaging

Ecovative Design, a New York-based company, has developed a biodegradable and sustainable packaging solution using mycelium – the vegetative part of fungi. By harnessing the natural adhesive properties of mycelium, Ecovative Design creates packaging materials that are not only biodegradable but also fully compostable, reducing the environmental impact associated with traditional packaging materials.

Mushroom-based packaging offers numerous benefits beyond sustainability. It provides exceptional protection and cushioning for fragile goods and is adaptable to various shapes and sizes, making it suitable for a wide range of products. Additionally, it requires minimal energy and resources to produce, resulting in a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to conventional alternatives.

The innovative mycelium packaging created by Ecovative Design has gained recognition from major companies. Furniture retailer IKEA, for instance, has adopted this eco-friendly packaging solution for some of its products. This case study demonstrates how sustainable packaging solutions can successfully infiltrate well-established industries, having a positive impact on both the environment and the bottom line.

Best Practices for a Sustainable Packaging Future:

1. Embrace recyclable and reusable materials: Companies should prioritize using materials that are easily recyclable or capable of multiple reuse cycles, reducing waste and promoting a circular economy.
2. Optimize packaging design: By employing efficient design techniques, businesses can minimize material usage and optimize space, reducing packaging waste and transportation costs.
3. Educate and engage consumers: Transparently communicate the benefits of sustainable packaging to consumers, fostering awareness and encouraging eco-conscious purchasing habits.
4. Collaborate and share knowledge: Encourage industry-wide collaboration to advance sustainable packaging practices through shared knowledge, research, and solutions.


The future of sustainable packaging lies in innovation and collaboration. By investing in research and development, companies can lower their environmental impact while meeting customer demands for greener alternatives. Through case studies like Loop and Ecovative Design, we see that rethinking packaging systems and materials can lead to highly successful and scalable solutions. By embracing best practices, incorporating sustainable materials, and engaging consumers, businesses can play a vital role in shaping a more sustainable future for packaging.

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Design Thinking and Sustainability

Creating Environmentally-friendly Solutions

Design Thinking and Sustainability

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

As we face growing environmental challenges, businesses and individuals alike are increasingly recognizing the importance of incorporating sustainability into their practices. Design thinking, a creative problem-solving approach, can be a powerful tool in developing environmentally-friendly solutions. By prioritizing ecological needs from the very beginning, design thinking enables us to create innovative and sustainable products, services, and systems. In this article, we will explore the intersection of design thinking and sustainability, discussing its benefits and providing two compelling case studies that showcase its effectiveness.

Benefits of Design Thinking in Sustainability:

1. Holistic Problem-Solving: Design thinking encourages a human-centered approach, focusing on understanding user needs and the broader context of a problem. By considering ecological factors as part of this holistic approach, designers can identify creative ways to address sustainability challenges. This mindset enables the development of sustainable solutions that go beyond meeting short-term objectives, leading to more far-reaching environmental benefits.

2. Collaboration and Co-creation: Design thinking emphasizes collaboration and involving stakeholders from various disciplines during the problem-solving process. Incorporating sustainability considerations into this collaborative approach ensures a diversity of ideas and perspectives. By engaging experts from environmental sciences, engineering, or green innovation, designers can tap into a wealth of knowledge, effectively merging design and sustainability expertise to create impactful solutions.

Case Study 1: The Ocean Cleanup Project

The Ocean Cleanup project, initiated by the Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, is a remarkable example of design thinking applied to address environmental challenges. By leveraging a systematic design process, Slat and his team developed an innovative solution to remove plastic debris from our oceans. The project involved extensive research, prototypes, and testing, subsequently leading to the creation of a passive cleanup system that captures floating plastic waste using ocean currents. Through design thinking methodologies, the Ocean Cleanup project demonstrates the power of combining creative problem-solving with sustainability objectives to tackle one of the greatest threats to our oceans.

Case Study 2: IDEO’s Sustainable Packaging Solutions

IDEO, an internationally renowned design firm, has been employing design thinking principles to develop sustainable packaging solutions for various clients. In one particular case, IDEO partnered with a global food company to tackle the environmental impact of their product’s packaging. By engaging stakeholders from diverse fields and using design thinking tools such as empathy mapping and rapid prototyping, IDEO was able to propose creative packaging alternatives made from biodegradable materials and explore innovative ways to reduce waste in the supply chain. Through this approach, IDEO exemplifies how design thinking can be key in transforming traditional practices into sustainable and environmentally-friendly solutions.


Design thinking offers a compelling framework to address complex challenges by embedding sustainability at the core of the problem-solving process. By prioritizing the environment as a key stakeholder, design thinkers can create innovative, human-centered, and sustainable solutions. The case studies of the Ocean Cleanup project and IDEO’s packaging solutions highlight the tangible impact that design thinking can have on solving environmental problems. By continuing to integrate design thinking with sustainability principles, we can unlock endless possibilities for creating a more environmentally-friendly future.

SPECIAL BONUS: Braden Kelley’s Problem Finding Canvas can be a super useful starting point for doing design thinking or human-centered design.

“The Problem Finding Canvas should help you investigate a handful of areas to explore, choose the one most important to you, extract all of the potential challenges and opportunities and choose one to prioritize.”

Image credit: Misterinnovation.com

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Whither Innovation in Indiana?

Whither Innovation in Indiana?Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s talk about homosexuality and whether it has any impact on innovation. There probably are two no more polarizing topics in the United States than homosexuality and abortion. But the truth is that if both sides of the political and religious spectrum focused on the golden rule, there would be less corruption, we’d all be a lot happier, probably have more innovation, and our politics would be more productive.

Today we have another great case study for how short people’s attention spans have gotten, how the government can help or hinder innovation, how little investigative journalism still remains in the United States, and how easily people are swayed by a soundbite that runs contrary to (or in support of) their own personal religious or political beliefs.

But this article isn’t going to be some diatribe in support or opposition to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) legislation (referred to by the media as an anti-gay law) because I freely admit I don’t fully understand all of the implications of a similar federal law and whether federal protections for gays apply to the state law.

Instead I’d like to focus briefly on what this controversy brings to mind for me in regards to the efforts of hard-working folks attempting to stimulate innovation in Indiana (and elsewhere).

Point #1: People Must Feel Safe to Innovate

If we take Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs as gospel (okay, maybe that’s dangerous word choice), then safety is one of the most important needs for people, and in order to innovate people must feel safe. True innovation usually requires taking risks and doing things in a new way, and if people feel that trying something new or even just being different has a high price, then people won’t step out of their comfort zone and push the boundaries of conventional wisdom. So if we are truly trying to do everything we can to inspire innovation in our region, shouldn’t we also try to do everything we can to make it feel like a place where it is safe to be different and where that difference is potentially even celebrated?

Point #2: Diversity is Important (to a point)

We all look at the same situation through different eyes and a different history of experiences, values and beliefs. This diversity can help create different idea fragments that can be connected together to create revolutionary new ideas with the potential to become innovations. But at the same time, having some shared experiences helps to make it easier to communicate and to have a higher level of trust (assuming those experiences were good ones). So if we are truly trying to do everything we can to inspire innovation in our region, shouldn’t we also do everything we can to make different groups of people look to our region as a good place to move to so we have a diverse talent pool?

Conclusion: If Culture Trumps Strategy, Environment Trumps Startups

The world is changing. It used to be that companies started and grew in the community where they were founded, hiring increasing numbers of people from the surrounding areas and attracting others from elsewhere. Now, an increasing number of companies (especially digital ones) are moving to more distributed models where they create satellite offices where the talent is rather than trying to attract all of the talent to a single location.

Economically this is meaning that it is becoming less important that the next Facebook starts in your town than it is for the next Facebook to want to have an office in your town. This means that for cities, counties, states and countries, the greater economic impact is likely to be made not from trying to encourage lots of startups, but instead from trying to create an environment that young, talented people choose to live in.

And when you create a place that is attractive for smart, creative people to move to, you know what, you’re likely to end up not just with more growing digital companies seeking a presence, but also a larger number of startups than if you started with the goal of specifically trying to encourage startups.

Does your region focus on creating startups as the primary goal or on making itself an attractive place for a young, diverse and talented population to live?

Does this uproar help Indiana establish its as an attractive place to be, or work against that perception?

I’ll let you decide!

P.S. If you’re curious, here are The Metro Areas With the Largest, and Smallest, Gay Populations (for what it’s worth, Indianapolis isn’t on either list)

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