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Flattening innovation

Michael Oluwagbemi's picture

The subject of innovation is slowly but surely on the rise; as nations realizing the steady shift from resource to the inevitable knowledge based global economy demand high speed innovation to stay ahead of the competition. From Japan to Colombia, Washington DC to Bulawayo - politicians are emphasizing retooling education for innovation.

This means neo-era venture capitalists like Lightbank, incubators and the Y-combinator type camps and resource centers are increasingly popular. National technology initiatives are gradually leaving the pages of white papers to become reality. This goes on even as the youth of the world, in high demand for their technological prowess but left out by the unworthy inexperience of unemployment, are coalescing around innovation as a tool to stay relevant in their various societies.

Lots of money is pouring into innovation, given the successes of the late dot comers who went back to the drawing board and truly invested energy in creating the next wave of dot-com successes which, though slow to come to market, have achieved remarkable successes. Starting with Google, then Baidu, and now Zynga, LinkedIn, Facebook,, Zappos, Foursquare and Groupon amongst others, innovation is back. The Internet is back and as dreams are being made – others will be broken.

Innovation presents a dicey proposition to governments and market actors alike. Here are a few facts:

  • Innovation as it is currently practiced is “me” centered
  • “Me” centered innovation is risky and expensive (6 out of every 10 start-up fails!)
  • Individual innovation may be slow and produce only limited results


The key to broadening the accessibility and usefulness of innovation as a tool for economic development will be flattening it. This will require replacing the “I” in innovation with a “we”. The concept of “Wennovation”, though not entirely revolutionary could hold the key to making innovation cheap, fast and accessible for the world’s poorest and least enabled to achieve maximum impact.

Photo - Fuzzy Success: Web 2.0 before & after. A pink cross means that the company is dead now while green circles mark companies that got acquired. (Source: