Think of all the ways we use technology in any given day to make our lives easier. Your GPS is an absolute must to get to a new doctor’s office. At the store and forgot your wallet? No worries, pay with your phone using ApplePay. Don’t want to deal with finding a parking spot downtown? Hail an Uber through your app and somebody will be at your place in a few minutes to take you anywhere you want to go. Need a weekend getaway? Hop on Airbnb and book that perfect mountain sanctuary for some rest and relaxation. Need your air conditioner fixed? Find a good repairman on Angie’s List or Handy. Can’t get to the grocery store because your car is in the shop? Pull up the Instacart app and for a small fee have your groceries delivered right to your door.
All of these examples highlight the effect of innovation on our lives. Innovation is the process of creating better products, services, processes, or business models for society. Entrepreneurs develop these innovations by identifying problems, investing their capital, and creating solutions. Many times, as consumers, we don’t even know we have these problems. Take for example Henry Ford who once famously quipped, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
These and countless other examples of modern conveniences would seem unimaginable just a few short years ago. Just take the driving to a new doctor’s office example. Ten years ago you would have had to pay for another device and plug the address into your Tom Tom or Garmin. Fifteen years ago you would have had to print off Mapquest directions and break hands free laws to read the next step, hit the travel odometer just right to time the 1.2 miles until your next turn. Twenty years ago you’d have had to call the doctor’s office and get directions and write them out yourself. How did we even survive?!
But this doesn’t mean that innovation is all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a messy, dynamic process that over time creates the best outcome for all. When Henry Ford made the automobile affordable for the average American, it closed countless businesses— from horseshoe makers to carriage drivers. Society had to invest money to create the infrastructure necessary to handle the growing adoption of automobiles. But when one door closes due to innovation it is usually to make way for more to open.
Or take a more modern example. Not too long ago, the go-to activity every Friday night was Blockbuster. The new releases were always gone and you were stuck picking the same old movie for the fourth time. Imagine how many people lost their jobs as Redbox and then Netflix put Blockbuster out of business. Yet, nobody wants to go back and give up the countless shows and movies at our fingertips with streaming services.
Innovation makes our lives easier, more affordable, more convenient, and even creates new opportunities and markets. It makes us more productive and allows for greater human flourishing. What would happen if we tried to slow this process down or prevent these innovators from implementing their next idea? What could we as a society miss out on? Because there are always those who try to stop innovation at every turn. Sadly, that usually involves using the power of government to ban the competition. For example, rather than change to market demands for cheaper and more convenient transportation, taxi drivers lobbied to have Ubers banned in many cities. The same happened with hotels and Airbnb, and countless other examples.
This is why Beacon is working to ensure that Tennessee remains a place where entrepreneurs and small business owners can start their businesses without fear of government getting in their way. Or that new products and services aren’t shut down by competition looking to win through lobbying rather than their value in the marketplace. Why can’t Tennessee lead the nation in innovation freedom or be the next Silicon Valley? Or perhaps more importantly, what will our lives look like if we don’t?