Issue: Innovation

Innovation isn’t a box you check off and say, “Done!” And too many people confuse innovation with technology, thinking that if they focus on the latest gadgets that means they are innovative. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, new technologies are developed every day that aren’t particularly innovative. They are just copies of old tech with shinier boxes.

Innovation is about making things better. And in the process, if you can use technology to enhance that innovation, then all the better for you. It’s important that we have a Mayor who understands this subtle distinction otherwise you will have someone in office who simply throws money toward hi-tech systems and gadgets without analyzing whether or not the technology will make the current system function better. A truly innovative Mayor will first seek to make something better, before throwing money toward building a brand new technology.

Burt Rutan, winner of the Ansari XPRIZE, once said, “The day before something is truly a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.” Innovation happens when you encourage crazy ideas. As your Mayor, I will encourage crazy ideas.

Prize-based innovation can single-handedly invent the technology to create external elevators, and do so for a pre-determined budget that would be far below what it would cost to hire engineers to create the solution, and it would attract the youngest, brightest minds in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to our city. Why? Because we could create a prize-based incentive to the universities around the world to invent an external elevator that can be attached to any shape, height, and building material. The great thing about prize-based innovation is that the person holding the prize gets to determine the parameters of what is necessary to win it. So we are limited only by our imagination of how over-the-top we want the elevators to be. By offering this invention as a prize, and opening it up to universities throughout the word 2 things will happen. #1. The universities’ alumni fund the R&D, where we only have to pay for it once we have an invention that works. #2 In order for them to complete their mission, they would have to visit our city for their R&D. Here’s where it gets really exciting. What’s the best way to get someone to move to Tampa? Have them visit Tampa. If we had the brightest minds from universities all over the world visiting Tampa, we would simultaneously be recruiting a portion of them to live here by giving them an experience they’ve never known before. If you want a truly innovative city, then get the most innovative minds to move here.

If you’ve read more of my website (particularly my articles on transportation), you’ll know that I don’t shy away from crazy ideas or big goals. Because I know that big goals lead to the best outcomes. Big goals significantly outperform small goals, medium-sized goals, and vague goals. Ask yourself which Mayoral candidates have the biggest goals and the craziest ideas.

What sparks an innovative city? A city that has the freedom to take risks. When I share with people my idea of the rooftop city I cite several buildings in the Downtown Core that are already set up for rooftop experiences, but are currently inaccessible. For example, the Bank of America Building has a platform already capable of allowing people to walk outside and enjoy million dollar views. But it is closed to the public. Why? Liability. The fear of frivolous lawsuits has created a mentality of limitation, safe thinking, and fear. These emotions stifle innovation.

I don’t know of anyone (except opportunistic lawyers perhaps) who think frivolous lawsuits are a good idea. Our culture has become far too eager to sue businesses for the most ridiculous claims. I believe as a culture we need to accept more personal responsibility for our actions and stop blaming our poor choices on the companies who invented the products we chose to use poorly.

I will work with city council, and state legislature to create laws that protect our business owners from frivolous lawsuits. Let me be clear: I’m not saying make it impossible to sue businesses. If a company is negligent, they should be held responsible. But if a building has taken all necessary, and reasonable precautions to keep someone from jumping off their roof, and someone does it anyway, then that’s on the individual who chose to jump, not the owner of the building.