Hannah Jones, VP of Sustainable Business and Innovation at Nike, picks her top 10 things that show when fundamental transformation meets disruptive innovation.

Written by
Hannah Jones
July 2011




Founded by Jennifer Pahlka, this US organization works with developers to look at how big, open data can enable cities to run better, provide better services and create jobs. They recently did an open data project where they put a huge hunk of Portland’s data – bus schedules, everything – online and developers have been holding regular hackathons to turn that data into apps and information that enables consumers and citizens to live smarter, better lives.



I’m not interested in iTunes for iTunes, but it’s a great example of how Apple has created a new ecosystem that all of us are now able to feed, cultivate and harvest innovation in. Its ecosystem creates value – not just for them but for multiple organizations around the world. I think innovation in the context of whole ecosystems is incredibly important. Nike+ [a chip that attaches to your running shoes and records data while synching with your iPod], which was born in partnership with Apple, is just the beginning of what Nike will do when it comes to harnessing the power of technology in the world of sport.



I’ve been extremely influenced by Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, and more recently, Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World. Two things that have become really big themes in how we do innovation here at Nike are how you scale collaboration and transparency. There are a lot of smart people out there, but most of them don’t work for you, so how do you tap into their collective intelligence? Wikinomics taught me all about how we really cultivate collaboration on a global scale.



Overnight, a new innovation can render an old system completely obsolete. That gives me enormous hope. People talk a lot about losing things they care about, but I think we need to shift the conversation to, ‘How does one create beautiful, elegant solutions that you can delight in?’ I think electric vehicles are going that way. And that’s why I think the Tesla is an interesting concept car – because it’s trying to marry desire with solution.



Henry Chesbrough, who wrote the book Open Innovation, has been a great influence. We worked with him when we set up the GreenXchange, a project where we uploaded all 400 of our utility patents under Creative Commons licensing to enable other people to more easily harvest the innovation we have already invested in, to stimulate faster, more effective innovation. The notion that you combine openness, collaboration and innovation with data is hugely important in how we tackle some of the problems we’re trying to solve.



I’m inspired by the King of Bhutan’s decision to forgo GDP for a Gross Happiness Index. People are starting to question the fundamental equation for definition of growth, and I think the Bhutanese king and Parliament were soothsayers in looking at alternatives. Now you’ve got Nicolas Sarkozy and Joseph Stiglitz doing something in France; you’ve got the CEO of BlackBerry who has just set up a new economics foundation in the US to look at redefining growth. I think there’s a movement, at a macro level, in thinking about the interplay of sustainability, public policy indicators and economics.


Mark Parker, designer and CEO at Nike, has had one of the greatest imprints on me in the last decade of my life around the theme of innovation. Mark came at sustainability through the lens of a designer. He challenged me to change the paradigm from the business of trying to retrofit the past and get into the business of designing the future.



Paul Hawken, who wrote a book called Blessed Unrest, has inspired me along my innovation journey. He predicted the potential of Twitter; he predicted Libya and Egypt and Tunisia. He talks about how grassroots movements are all beginning to coalesce and how technology is actually creating new social movements. A new form of politics and a new dialogue is emerging that has huge potential, and it’s founded on open innovation, big data, collaboration and the many voices that are starting to be heard and have the potential to come together.


China is quietly doing an incredible amount around the environment, and I think it’s a very different mechanism of innovation. It’s definitely rooted in scale. What China teaches us about some of the innovation they’re plowing out is how one scales effectively. We create a bunch of oases in a lot of deserts, nice little pilot projects and symbols, but our greatest collective challenge is to understand and achieve scale.



Mark Parker, John Hoke [Nike’s VP of Global Footwear Design] and I have spent six years building a ‘Considered Index’, which will help designers make better, smarter, environmentally conscious choices. It is loaded with data and information, which will help designers think about efficiency and be stimulated through incentives. In 12 months, we expect to have a Manufacturing Index, which will align incentives to our factory partners with good labor standards. My hope and belief is that it will become an industry-adopted tool.

Overnight, a new innovation can render an old system completely obsolete. That gives me enormous hope.