I am a firm believer in putting social good at the heart of any business I develop. As business people, it’s our duty to ensure that all of what we do is focused on improving the world, making it a better place for current and future generations.
Beyond the idea that it’s just good business practice, people are starting to realize that social good has an objective. It’s leading to more innovative practices that are generating solutions to long-held social problems. The more I see social good taking place, the more it ignites my own passion for innovation and helping others.
Social innovation drives social solutions
This passion has led to what’s being called “social innovation,” in which creativity helps create solutions. One example includes Teach for America, founded by Wendy Kopp, which puts recent university graduates into teaching positions at the country’s worst schools to help turn them around. Another example includes Indiegogo, which provides a way to start fundraising campaigns in order to take creative ideas to the next level.
The idea here is that there is powerful, positive energy at work when people think of ways to address critical social demands. The result is an environment where more ideas are shared and where everyone can view things differently.
It’s about the human dimension, not the balance sheet
Many of the social problems being addressed today have been present for decades. It’s an example of how we can learn to think differently and look at long-standing problems differently. This, in turn, can be applied to other issues that aren’t necessarily social ills.
For example, service innovation and design innovation focus on social good while also addressing larger business issues. By discovering ways to change service delivery in a way that acknowledges the human aspect, service innovation provides services designed for the betterment of those receiving them rather than the bottom line on a balance sheet.
In terms of design innovation, this concept encourages more people to collaborate and feel empowered to create their own solutions at the local level instead of waiting for some global organization to do it for them. In recent years, some of the most creative solutions for developing businesses and addressing pollution or the need for food and water have come from those within those communities. This proves that you really don’t need a college degree or a business education to be innovative.
Applying social innovation processes to spur innovation elsewhere
When looking at how the social innovation process can be applied elsewhere to stimulate innovation, there are some key traits you should emulate:
–Don’t focus on linear thinking. Let your mind wander and work from end result back to the main problem, taking tangents seriously.
–Make it as informal and loose as possible so that when groups get together to work on a problem it doesn’t feel like a formal meeting or structured relationship.
–Include more people in the innovation process, such as users and citizens who are likely to think and perceive the issue much differently than a businessperson might.
–Focus on a more interdisciplinary approach, since most of today’s complex problems are interconnected and involve multiple barriers and issues that need unraveling.
–Use more action-oriented processes, including role-playing and on-site investigation to get to the heart of the problem.
These are the type of actions that organizations like the Social Innovation Camp have used to successfully innovate and take on real world problems. They bring software designers and social experts together to develop a single idea over a 48-hour period. This interdisciplinary approach has proven to rapidly raise the level of innovative thinking that comes from such group meetings.
Lastly, by looking more at the demand rather than the supply side of business, you can begin to see innovation in a different light. You first need to think about what you can do to make a difference for others and see it from their eyes. When you let go of just the financial and economic orientation to the issues and begin to see the human aspect, you’ll find that you can inject a strong dose of innovation into more than just social issues.