Innovation and creativity have been the staple of my hustle existence for a long time now, with design thinking, content creation, and creativity workshops. However, the more I venture into the world of new technologies, inventions, and creative solutions – the more I want to stay away from using these words. And it’s not because they’re buzzwords, or “because everyone says it” – I’m far from the “I’m not like other [enter name]” trope, and I wrote a lil’ explainer about it previously. My dislike is rooted in the lack of reasoning for such inventions. However, to wisely discuss this topic and outline my rationale, we need to establish the criteria: what is creativity; what is innovation?
DEFINE THE CRITERIA
There is, of course, an array of definitions, and because both are quite undefinable words, all interpretations make sense. For the case of my narrative I will cite the below, consecutively:
Creativity. In science, we define ‘creativity’ as an idea that is novel, good, and useful.Michael Grybko
Innovation. New combinations that include the introduction of new goods, new methods of production, the opening of new markets, the conquest of new sources of supply and the carrying out of a new organization of any industry.Joseph A. Schumpeter
There are some common denominators: novel/new, good or leading towards good results, and useful. To simply, for the sake of my argument, for an idea/invention to be creative and/or innovative it needs to:
- Be (fairly) new.
- Be useful to the cause.
- Help the cause.
Sounds simple, right? Not quite. As much as it’s great to think that we support the environment, fight for what’s right, support positive social, economical, and cultural changes – the world is still a capitalistic playground of who can sell more. I’m a highly positive person and I will fight the ideas that go against my creed. But I’m also a realist and I accept the fact that, as corny as it sounds, money makes the world go around, in most cases. Now, let me be crystal clear: it doesn’t mean that every single human on the planet is corrupt – no, there is plenty of people fighting good causes and making sure we change now for the better future (in fact, please take a moment from reading this and donate to a cause you support, please, every penny helps). But the ratio still favors the capitalists, I’m afraid. Look at the electronic industry, for instance: there is an iPhone every year. Do we really need it? No. Will there be people willing to pay the hefty price for the newest model anyway? Yes. Will there be people who will get all the new models for free so they can advertise them on their YouTube channels so more people can buy them, even though most of them don’t need new phones? Yes. Therefore, I rest my case*.
I mentioned before that I’m shying away from using the words “innovative” or “creative”. I’m uncomfortable using these words now because they don’t follow the definition. And now, that we know the definitions, let’s dive into the subject of unnecessary creativity.
Actually, one more comment: presented opinions are my own, and I understand people have different priorities; however, I tried to look at the examples in my most objective way and put them versus the ideologies they claim to support, and not versus my own ideals.
NEW HANDKERCHIEF NEEDED?
Tons of single-use, paper-like tissues that use our forests and water reserves.
The “Innovative” Replacement
I recently was introduced to the concept of paper tissues (think of Kleenex) replacement via an advert on Instagram: LastTissue (see the website: https://lastobject.com/pages/lasttissue)! LastTissue is (supposedly) an answer to the problem of single-use paper tissues that waste the trees, create messes out in nature, clog public toilets, and are generally a wasteful object. The product’s details mention green alternative (read: ecological, very on brand), made of tolerable silicone, portable, reusable.
Even my 7-year-old nephew knows what a handkerchief is! Most of us probably still have some, remnants of the old days, haha! And even if someone doesn’t, I’m almost certain each household has a piece of cloth lying around, from an old t-shirt, so making one would be easy (and can actually be pretty fun). And then you are armed with a stylish, hand-made (and even personalized), long-lasting, reusable, easy to care for tissue. They’re easy to wash (chug them with other items to your washing machine or wash with a closed tap) and dry quickly.
The “cone of zero waste,” a hierarchy of actions from most to least helpful for the environment focuses on: rethinking the use, reducing unnecessary purchases, and reusing what we have until it breaks… So why re-invent a handkerchief, and call it “green” when it goes against the green rules, and it doesn’t really help the cause?
Plastic bottles, enough said.
The concept of replacing plastic bottles is not new, and this USA-based company came up with a concept to put water in “paper” boxes, and called it Boxed Water is Better (see the website: https://boxedwaterisbetter.com/). The idea is noble – we can all agree that plastic bottles are the worst. Therefore, the main premise of Boxed Water advertises that their packaging is paper-based (so it’s greener than plastic, supposedly), so eco-friendly and recyclable.
Of course, the best solution is to use tap water in a recyclable bottle, however, I can understand not all countries have safe pipe systems (and purifying pipes for the whole country, or even city, is a whole other, massive endeavor, so let’s leave it aside, nothing we can act quickly upon ourselves). But the advertised paper-based packaging doesn’t do well for the environment either, because the insides are still lined with plastic or plastic-based materials! And multi-material packaging is almost impossible to recycle because the recycling service must have the technology to separate the materials, and currently, not many places have it in use. So, if anything, would it make more sense to innovate a way to easily (and cheaply) purify water, instead of falsely advertise a product that really doesn’t help to solve the problem? Very greenwashing, I would say!
Clothes disintegrating into plastic? I don’t see another problem with clothing…
Any clothing that is made from natural ingredients, is vegan, eco-friendly, bio-something, or whatnot.
First, avoiding clothes that seep plastic is currently possible with already existing brands. Second, any new item of clothing we buy is a danger to nature. There is more than enough to go around with thrift stores, clothing exchanges (or, let’s face it, swap it with your friends), and current conscious producers, that I do not see the point of creating new sweaters or especially trucker hats or such. I say nay. There is already a problem with fast fashion, we don’t need no more (read here).
SO, DO WE NEED TO STOP?
I’m in no way trying to undermine the goodwill of the inventors. In my eyes, however, the above examples show the excessive use of invention and creativity to – rather than use it to, e.g. change the way we behave – resulted in producing new items that won’t replace the old but will exist in the same realm. One may argue that these replacements will lower the use of the problematic items, but if the alternatives could involve innovative ways to get people to use reusable water bottles, reusable spoons, or resign from taste cups (or, more importantly: to distribute water to those in need, finding healthy and accessible meals for the homeless) – is it really necessary to re-invent a handkerchief, rather than advertise its positives? What do you think?
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
What we – as humanity – should do is to stop chasing money, and actually settle on feelings, emotions, and togetherness. Alas, this probably won’t happen. But we can make a difference as conscious and educated individuals! The change always started with one, and it always started with standing our grounds!
What we should do is spread socially responsible innovation. We need changes, and we need better solutions, but they need to be conscious, helpful, and make a considerable difference while eradicating the negatives. We need to focus on innovating attitudes and changing the way we do things, as well as we need to creatively modify objects to better serve our planet. Not only that, but we all need to be responsible for what we leave in our wake.
* Electronics and (later mentioned) ecology are only two of the business areas that ride the invention wave for the wrong reasons.