Innovating Innovation

Thomas Ruddy. USA,Jury, Innompic Games

Thomas Ruddy



It may not seem so obvious to many analysts, but in my view, the financial crisis of 2008 was a turning point for entrepreneurship and the scaling of innovation activities of all sorts across the globe. Perhaps coincidentally, this is when Vadim Kotelnikov, whom I first met in New Delhi in 2001, launched his innovative Global Entrepreneurial Creativity Contests − the first of many of his innovations such as his most recent Innompics, the Olympics for entrepreneurs.

Why is this significant? It's also the starting point of now-ubiquitous business accelerators, innovation bootcamps, other models and movements, and all the wide range of activities that provide dedicated support to individuals to take control over their destinies. We are increasingly searching inward for business solutions and ideas when the job market boards go dark. This phenomenon has occurred and is still happening in most markets (the USA being an outlier for other reasons); it was out of necessity to accommodate the vast layoffs of workers from tech and traditional businesses hit hard by the financial collapse. People were left to their own devices to make a new living, somehow, and this urgent need supercharged grassroots innovation activities with innovative approaches − innovating innovation.

Today there is no remote part of the world where entrepreneurs are not coming to life. If there is such a place, you are very likely to find digital nomads searching for better wifi access so they can learn from those emerging and underdeveloped markets, finding their inspiration and their markets for their newfound ideas and services created out of thin air of human creativity. Where do these trailblazers go for attention, and their presence in local markets also fans the flames of local entrepreneurship? Others see how a person can succeed in business with just a laptop and an idea. Global and regional innovation ecosystems are coming to life. However, in my view, many of them are still about services push and not technology pull, about many ventures chasing too few funding sources. This is a process well established in places like Silicon Valley, which is being replicated worldwide, creating systems for presenting business plans to investors who see a hundred submissions a day and fund one company per month. How can this paradigm be innovated? How can innovation be innovated?

In my view, the innovation of innovation will happen when entrepreneurs realize they don't need investors to succeed; not all startups need to be unicorns; they only need to feed the families who support the entrepreneur.

As an American, I still tend to think too big, that we should only consider ventures that can roll out across the US in a few months, then the rest of the world in a few years. While this is possible for the wealthy former employees of the big tech companies that shed workers from 2008 (and more recently from Covid-19), that's a minority of a minority and serves not the majority of people requiring a better quality and way of life. We don't need to think radical or disruptive innovation all the time, and we shouldn't need to feel that we must have an investor in waiting before we can succeed. We need to get back to our roots of local everything and then slowly and organically go local.

I am one of the lucky evaluators of submissions to the Innompics. I also review business plans and R&D grant proposals for a career serving governments and NGOs around the world that evaluate for financing in one way or another. To me, the Innompics is reminiscent of pilot projects such as in the UK, where they have been experimenting with teaching innovation and entrepreneurship in ever younger age groups, all the way "down" to secondary schools and even testing in primary schools (when you think about it, primary and pre-primary grades are only teaching creativity which is the foundation of entrepreneurship and innovation, but we lose that when textbooks rule our lives). It will take a few generations to have evidence-based results, but already the results are positive in many ways if none other than our realization that a student's creativity comes to life outside textbooks at any age. But what about countries where there are no venture capitalists, formal innovation ecosystems, or entrepreneur support services? And many countries have no textbooks either (for better or worse). How to stimulate the creation of vital local startups to promote innovation that can increase their quality of life, make living wage jobs, and grow the national economy? Is this not where the Olympics started to find the planet's most outstanding athletes? But the Olympics are not just about finding the best athletes; they are about inspiring people of all backgrounds to reach for their highest goals and to have the support of others like them trying to do the same thing. This is what Innompics is all about.

So having turned our image of innovation activities on its head from a financial crisis compounded by a medical crisis that brings on an economic crisis, we may have solved one of humanity's most significant challenges, the sharing of opportunities and wealth so everyone can rise above poverty and disease and illiteracy. Surely it will take more than one initiative and more than one model, but a pioneer needs to lead this challenge so others will become engaged and scalability, and momentum is just a matter of time.

For this innovation of innovation, we can thank Vadim for being so bold as to start with those most in need and those with the least resources, and those who are the masses! Let us embrace the Innompics challenges and let it be the start of a global grassroots ecosystem for children and young adults in all corners of the world and all walks of life to take control of their destiny, starting local and going global over time, to help meet the established or emerging systems supporting more "traditional" entrepreneurship and innovation.

The time to innovate innovation is here and all the better to help us out of this global recession, which should once again be the impetus to rise above it all and succeed using what limited resources each has available.


Harmonious Innovation


Harmonious Mega-Innovation


Innovation is Love

Innovation Tree





Thomas Ruddy. USA,Jury, Innompic Games

The Olympics of Innovation today is the Innompics but nothing will stop innovation if provided a platform for progress, such as this. Imagine a world where all great ideas seamlessly integrate into our lives to make the world a better place!

Thomas Ruddy
United Nations Consultant on Entrepreneurship Development