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What makes someone an innovator?

“If you want to innovate, it’s not a question of having new ideas, it’s a question of getting rid of old beliefs, and then you have the mind and the heart empty enough to welcome something new.”

The words of explorer, Dr Bertrand Piccard, who has demonstrated time and again exactly that. The serial pioneer, whose historic round-the-world trips have come to redefine what is possible for humanity, was one of my guests this year on Inside Ideas.


When Bertrand took the controls of the Breitling Orbiter in 1999 with his teammate Brian Jones, he went on to complete the first non-stop around-the-world balloon flight. While in 2016 he successfully co-piloted the first ever round-the-world solar powered flight, with André Borschberg, in the now iconic Solar Impulse plane.

More recently, the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Environment, Special Advisor to the European Commission, and Founder and Chairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation has been on another trip around the world. This time in pursuit of 1000 innovative solutions that can ‘protect the environment in a profitable way’.  

Earlier this year Bertrand and the Solar Impulse Foundation reached, and surpassed, that target to identify ‘1000 solutions’ that can accelerate the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while also providing the economic gains that policy makers controlling the levers of change demand.

“We now have the proof that enough solutions exist today to make our world more efficient, and sustainable. Therefore, no excuses are left for inaction as decision-makers cannot pretend anymore that ecology is too expensive, hurts the economy, and destroys jobs,” Bertrand said.

To help business leaders, investors and other key decision-makers access the innovations they need, the Foundation’s Solutions Guide offers a searchable tool for users to discover ‘solutions to problems in specific geographical, industrial, or financial settings’. A game-changer for advancing the SDGs, and at such crucial time, as the recent Sustainable Development Report (SDRreveals progress on the Goals is going backwards for the first time.


Bertrand’s lifelong mission to prove the impossible is possible has been fuelled by a mindset that nothing is ever off the table.

“The impossible does not exist in reality. The impossible exists in the mindsets of the people who are sticking to old ways of thinking, and they believe – with their learning, their experience of the past, that something is impossible. 

“But if you learn how to change the paradigm, change the way of thinking then you open completely new opportunities that will allow you to make something possible. It’s exactly like the first aeroplane. The first aeroplane was made out of wood and cloth, which means that the Egyptians could have flown from the top of their pyramids 5,000 years ago but they did not do it because they believed that it was prohibited by the Gods. And in the beginning of the 20th century you had some explorers who said we don’t care about these old rules and they started to fly.”

Getting rid of these old beliefs is ‘how you can be really progressive, inventive, innovative and successful’ Bertrand says.

Dr Piccard’s achievements and mindset should inspire us all to believe transformative change is possible. His ideas are not rhetoric, but proven through his own endeavours. So it was a huge honour to welcome Bertrand onto the podcast to find out more about the 1000+ solutions, and the future he imagines is possible for people and planet.

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Written By

Marc is Editor-at-Large for Innovators Magazine and host of INSIDE IDEAS, his OnePoint5Media video podcast show. Marc is a member of the World Economic Forum Expert Network, Resilient Futurist, and award-winning Global Food Reformist.


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