GreenBiz Innovation Forum: Innovisionaries and Collaboration for Sustainable Business

Today and tomorrow,’s Innovation Forum in San Francisco has brought together, by invite only, the biggest thinkers in sustainable strategy at some of the biggest companies to learn how to actually innovate for a sustainable future.

The first “Innovisionary” to speak was Tim O’Reilly, the ‘father of web 2.0’.  He described innovation as an imperative, and compared the current state of the sustainability economy to those of the web movement he helped to build (his company literally created one of the first commercial websites) a scant decade or two ago.  

Two key imperatives to innovate that O’Reilly pointed out came from examples he gave from Google, Zynga, and Apple that may have paved the way for some best practices that other companies may benefit from.

  1. People are having fun.
  2. People are creating real livelihoods through their innovation.

All this while these same people are working within a platform created by a meta-organization.  For example, Apple boasted at a recent developers conference that they’d officially paid out $1 B in revenues to independent developers.  Google is innovating in areas as diverse as self-driving cars, geothermal development in West Virginia, and maps that allow us to see actual pictures of places  in the world we may never be able to visit.  These companies are, in essence, fertile farms that allow others to thrive.

What’s the lesson(s) for your company?

Mr. O’Reilly suggested the way to get there is really to focus on the fun.  Make it a cool future.  Not just an innovative future, but a weird, interesting, and fun one that really can engage other participants.

Got a suggestion on how small business can innovate?  We’d love to hear it.


Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill) and Principal of

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.