The beauty of the internet is its low barriers to entry. In practice, anyone can create a website, state an idea or build a community. Its democratic nature means that interesting, funny, terrible or world-changing ideas can be flagged and spread in the click of a mouse.
In the past you would have needed relationships with mass media to build any kind of awareness and a track record for anyone to take your idea seriously. Nowadays that’s not the case. Creative ideas are now noticed and judged on their own merits.
One of the benefits of this new meritocracy is the rise of great ideas from young people gaining traction in a grown-up world. When you’re younger you don’t have the same institutionalised thoughts and processes and you’re more willing to spend time on fun and new ideas. Full-time jobs can tend to get in the way too.
The internet helps magnify these ideas, this creativity, and provide value and recognition for the creator – no matter their age. There’s been loads of examples, but two recent ones in different areas, I wanted to write about.
Alex Tew’s had quite a lot of press. He needed to raise a few quid to pay for University so he thought up the concept of Million Dollar Homepage. The idea is quite simple, create a virtual billboard and selling screen real-estate for $1 a pop. It was a new twist on an existing idea (advertising), he used the buzz of the internet to magnify it and whoosh! Less than six months later he has $1million.
This means he’s got some capital for some new ideas (University’s been deferred for a year). Plus he’s got good recognition that will help him be heard.
Someone else who’s also been heard is 16 year-old Laurie Pycroft. He decided that he didn’t agree with animal rights protestors and felt that the scientific discoveries that have been made from testing on animals were worthwhile. He also believed that it wasn’t fair that the Animal Liberation Front activities, some of which he felt was merely intimidation, was resulting in a new research centre not being built. He formed Pro-Test and started campaigning for animal tests.
Now whether you agree or disagree with his politics what he has managed to do is successfully use his strong belief and couple it with the power of the internet. He managed to create a campaign and draw in supporters who had been, up to that point, scared of the consequences of standing up and being counted.
As the internet, and its use, develops more and more, it is these unique and passionate ideas that will be the successful ones. Anyone, or any business, that operates in a world where there are barriers to supporting this creativity and new thinking will find themselves circumvented by 16 year olds with clear minds and great ideas. With swarms of individuals now deciding what is popular, or useful, those steeped in traditional thinking will have to consider how effective their deicsion making and product development will be against this new competition.