America 2029 is all about pioneering the future. It's a complicated process, and it requires people with all types of talents.

Leaders know that there are two critical types of people which are difficult to find: visionaries and innovators. Visionaries can describe the future and get others to follow. Steve Jobs was a visionary. Innovators create breakthroughs. In this context, we are speaking of notable innovators, who step forward and make their mark. (Companies are filled with unsung innovators, some notable and some not. Unsung innovators, by definition, are not visionaries.) Steve Wozniak was an innovator.

The Education 2029 team recently made a critical discovery while cultivating America 2029 principles among gifted students: While projects and companies need both a visionary and an innovator to get off the ground, you almost never find a leader that is both a true visionary and a true innovator. Launching major initiatives almost always requires a complementary pair of a visionary and an innovator. In many cases, the visionary or the innovator (or both) work behind the scenes.

Here are some notable examples. Add to this list or modify existing entries. If you modify an entry, provide a clear explanation of your position, in brackets [like this].

  • Exception: Ray Kurzweil, visionary and prolific innovator
  • Exception: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, visionaries and innovators
  • Exception: Elon Musk, visionary and innovator
  • Exception: Dean Kamen, visionary and innovator
  • Exception: Henry Ford, visionary and innovator
  • Exception: Jeff Bezos, visionary and innovator
  • Exception: Tim Berners-Lee, visionary and innovator, but with limited ability to get others to follow his vision
  • Albert Einstein: innovator; dabbled as a visionary
  • Peter Diamandis: best known for promoting others' visions and innovations (as an innovator, he has no noteworthy innovations)
  • Thomas Edison: prolific innovator and great business leader, working mostly with other innovators; responded to public visionaries (for example, competing unsuccessfully to work with the visionaries who designed and built the World's Columbian Exposition)
  • Douglas Engelbart: unsung innovator (inventor of the computer mouse)
  • Larry Roberts: unsung innovator (father of the ARPANET, precursor to the Internet)
  • Bill Gates: shrewd and intelligent business leader who works well with visionaries and innovators
  • Steve Jobs: visionary; Steve Wozniak: innovator
  • Steve Jobs: visionary; Jonathan Ive: innovator (behind the scenes much of the time)
  • Leonardo da Vinci: innovator; unfruitful visionary (unable to get others to follow his vision)
  • Andrew Carnegie: great business leader, working with innovators and visionaries; visionary with respect to the philanthropy movement; Charles M. Schwab: visionary
  • Larry Ellison: visionary
The above examples are not intended to be judgmental. This is a list of truly great minds. Rather, these examples help us understand how difficult it is to find someone who is both a visionary and an innovator.

Here's the key point: When creating a major initiative, an innovator needs to find a visionary to work with as a "first follower", and a visionary needs to find an innovator to work with. See: How to Start a Movement. Be honest with yourself. Don't be too quick to tell yourself that you are both a visionary and an innovator. Have you successfully convinced groups of people that your vision of the future is correct? Have you created a truly breakthrough innovationsomething different than what's out there, that can change how people operate?

Use your browser's Back button to return to the previous page.

What would you like to do?