The truly innovative businesses were those that dared to think outside of “how do i make what exists more economically efficient”.
As an economist, the Keynesian theory is that the businesses that succeed are those that minimize resource costs, find more efficient ways to produce, and strike the selling cost balance between supply and demand.
But innovation has always been sparked from an illogical amount of ingenuity, an exorbitant gamble on energy/investment that only rarely results in success - one that requires effort that isn’t “rationally economic”. It’s no surprise that the great innovators of our time were ones that took little heed to margins and production costs; they were thinkers that invested years, decades, sometimes a lifetime of effort to an unguaranteed cause that they passionately chased, coming into fruition to change the way we all think and behave.
I speak now in the context of fashion and social responsibility. Some of you may know that I’ve been straddling the two for years, and to me they are synergistic. When you measure return by dollars, as many businesses do, being “socially responsible” (whether that’s providing ethical working conditions, sustainable materials and practices, or having a triple bottom line outside of traditional stakeholder standards), is absolutely a detriment. Why pay more for materials, why make less money, why produce/sell here, when I could.. etc.
Once we begin to think outside of doing things “economically efficient” as the only solution to a healthy economy, a model built on what already exists, that’s what groundbreaking, industry shaking growth happens.
It seemed like a lot of genuinely stupid things happened in the world today- ignorance seemed to steep into every story, whether it was a teen saying racist, insouciant things to provoke arrest to an airline, the shootings by the KKK, a woman responding condescendingly to a New York mag article tweet about Chinatown… I had to restrain myself from kicking her down a notch, especially first thing in the morning, waking to her pretentiousness.
And then I came across this quote from the Dalai Lama.
"Pay more attention to compassion and you’ll find you’re happier. It’s that practical and simple."
I’m a cynic, a realist. It’s difficult for me to look at the world without a lens of skepticism, when there’s so much to be frustrated at. But I’m learning that I can’t fix every problem, and i certainly can’t change every mind, and when it truly counts, people can be, and are, inherently good. Living in New York, people can be so harsh to each other on a daily basis- wedged up against armpits and knees and shoes and butts that touch on a morning commute, a society where if you make eye contact the reflex is to politely ignore and look away.
I’m learning to smile instead.