Like many people on the social web, when I heard about Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, I jumped for joy. “You mean I can slide over to New York in 45 minutes? Sign me up!” was my first thought. In lieu of that very fast initial reaction, I will absolutely admit that I am personally fascinated by, and open to, Musk’s concept of the Hyperloop. However, upon deeper personal reflection (read: more than 5 minutes of kicking the idea around), I really could not, and can not, see a rational reason for investing in an innovation like this over other more pressing and immediate issues that go deeper than making cross-country commute and collaboration easier for those that don’t know how to use skype.
Now… all of that said, this short post is not about the hyperloop or Elon Musk… instead, it is about an issue much bigger, one that our Steve Jobs idolizing society has really begun to dug ourselves into, likely without realizing it: the myth that innovation can only come from the most elite.
Mashable recently posted an article about Elon Musk’s “hyperloop dreams.” In the excerpt blurb posted on facebook, it read: “We need more billionaires like Musk to take on innovation challenges. Do you agree?” Now, I don’t normally get angsty and post comments on mass media facebook posts, but this time I really felt compelled to.
"That doesn’t give off such a great message, actually. He is brilliant, and a lot of billionaires are, but you don’t need to be rich to be innovative. Innovation can come from anyone regardless of age, gender, race, economic status, or religion." is what I left as a comment responding to the prompt: "Do you agree?"
In my free time, I enjoy mentoring young entrepreneurs, and startups that are operating in the social impact space. The first thing I hear from any of the dozens of individuals I have mentored over the years is a concern for needing money to succeed in business, and to be respected. This concern always crushes me. Unfortunately, society has painted a picture that has made it seem as though being a billionaire is a pre-requisite for being able to come up with life-changing, sustainable ideas. This is a shame because being “innovative” and thinking “creatively” is not at all a skill that is solely owned by the extremely rich.
The truth is that great ideas, as corny as it will sound, can come from anyone. You do not need to have a million twitter followers, a billion bucks, or a dozen cars to contribute to society. You just need a good idea.