8 KRISHNA THACKER / JASPREET SINGH Internalizing Innovation: It’s About Creating a Culture, Not a Product Everybody talks about innovation, and there’s general agreement that it’s good and necessary—but what does the term really mean? One way to think about it is that, unlike invention (which creates something completely new), innovation is about making new or better use of existing tools. In fact, one of the hallmarks of the best innovations is the way they seem so obvious in retrospect. Take the wheels on luggage, for example. The wheel was invented in 3,500 BCE—but no one thought to mass- market suitcases with wheels on them until the 1970s. Of course, many necessary developments occurred in the intervening 5,000 years: surfaces smooth enough for the idea to make sense, the disappearance of a cheap labor force devoted to carrying others’ burdens—not to mention the rise of leisure travel in the first place. But there does seem to be an iron law of innovation that states that the tool appears first, then people find ever more creative ways to take advantage of it. PUTTING THE ‘WHEELS’ ON FINANCIAL INCLUSION For MetLife Foundation, innovation holds the key to expanding financial health for low- and moderate-income households—and those households can’t afford to wait 5,000 years. We want to create the conditions in which a culture of innovation, one that builds creatively on digital technologies and behavioral insights (the “wheels,” so to speak), can take hold and advance financial health. That’s why we’re launching a three-year pilot called i3 (Innovate, Implement, Impact) to foster this sort of innovative thinking in Asia—a program we hope to expand in the coming years. Photo: Night traffic in China, by Steve Webel via Flickr.