It isn’t every day that you get a live glimpse at the future. I felt like that’s exactly what I did, though, at a baseball spring training game in Florida between the Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates a couple of weeks ago. It was there that I got my first up close look at a revolutionary new way — invented all the way back in 2008 — to dispense beer in a cup. GrinOn Industries’ Bottoms Up Draft Beer Dispensing System is pure genius and the economic value alone was obvious the moment I saw it in action.
Watching beer dispensed into a cup from the bottom rather than the top got me thinking about all of the things in the world that work the way they do because, well… that’s just the way they’ve always worked. But that’s never really been a rule, right? Rather, it’s just human nature that most of us grow accustomed to something working well in a certain way and then assuming that there are no compelling reasons to consider any changes to them. We even have a catch-phrase for it, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But that’s exactly what is happening as a growing culture of ‘re-imagination’ is leading us to, not necessarily fix things, but to simply question whether they’re as good as they can be — as fast, as inexpensive, as simple to use. Then, depending on the answers, take bold steps toward reinvention. In 2012, renowned Internet analyst, Mary Meeker, famously presented 50 slides titled “Re-imagination Of Nearly Everything – Powered By New Devices + Connectivity +UI + Beauty.” Seemingly everywhere we turn these days, we see her prophetic words coming true.
3D Printing represents a fundamentally new way of thinking about what it means to print something. Kickstarter reinvented what it means to secure funding for literally anything. Within travel and hospitality, we see Uber re-imagining ground transportation, Airbnb re-imagining lodging, and numerous airlines working with airplane manufacturers and designers to completely re-imagine the experience of flying.
Despite the re-imagination trend’s upward trajectory, it truly isn’t as simple as it might sound. There have historically been only a talented few who possess the ability to set aside conventional wisdom, analyze problems/products/industries, visualize their potential alternative futures, and then articulate them in a way that results in reinvention (quite often involving the need for significant investment).
I believe that the secret weapon in this regard, though, is a new generation of makers who have not only grown up with an inherent need to ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ but who increasingly have the skills needed to affect change on their own or in very small teams. Combine that with the passion they often have for generating both personal reward AND public good and the possibilities are endless. This is how we go from pulling a handle to draw a cup of beer one day to filling it from the bottom of the cup by simply setting it down the next.