Most people would say that human progress springs from innovation, which is driven by stuff like "necessity" or "following dreams" or "passion to solve problems" or somesuch platitudes. These are kinda nice statements that look good on a greeting card, the kind of thing that's safe to tell to kids. But I'm on the Internet so I'm gonna be candid here.
In my honest opinion, meaningful material improvement is really pushed by something else.
The best ideas flow from the most intense emotional state of all: pissed.
Great ideas sprout from when something just really ticks you off and you start thinking, why can't this thing just fucking work for me? At some point the small annoyances you deal with just boil over.
- Why the hell do I need to sync USB drives? Dropbox.
- Goddamnit why is this computer so hard to use? Apple.
- Why does every other piece of website-building software take fucking forever to setup and figure out just to do something simple? Squarespace.
- WTF is this random stack trace supposed to mean and what idiot wrote this broken library? StackOverflow.
- What's all this ridiculous PCI Compliance crap? I just want to get paid! Stripe.
- Why am I copying the Bible by hand all day? Fuck that. The Printing Press.
I could go on forever.
Obviously, anger can be an incredible creative force. You need to be impatient. You can't be chill and sitting around; worthy ideas never just pop into anyone's head like a bolt of lightning. People usually don't sit around thinking "hey, wouldn't it be cool if..." and come up with something worthwhile (case in point: that's probably how the Segway came into being). They start with annoyance and go from there.
This requirement for progress is not limited to tech products or companies; the same applies to small improvements: to architecture, to the way you've laid out the shelves in your home, to services, where the trash bin is relative to your desk (too far, isn't it?), to your daily routine, the work process of your team (why is our code review tool so fucking slow?), anything at all.
Look at how pissed Gordon Ramsey is on all his shows (which are, not coincidentally, all about fixing failed restaurants and curing people of their incompetence).
There are a multitude of minor irritants that we suppress daily just so we're able to function. Maybe you're the kind of person who copes and say "that's just how it is", and learn to ignore them, to push them past your peripheral vision into the mental background. Or, you can be a hero. You can be proactive and realize that if we are to really make anything better, it's vital to attune yourself to them. If you've ever watched Star Wars, then you know that such sensitivity to one's environment is what being a Jedi is all about ...
Qui-Gon Jin told a young Anakin Skywalker:
"[midi-chlorians] continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear them speaking to you."
Like Anakin, you've got to quiet your mind and pay attention to the little things. You should, when you use everyday objects, use them both deliberately and demandingly. Notice their many tiny deficiencies. Then, let the hate flow through you.
And, if you can, go do something about it. Go become that hero of the Republic.