The Stuxnet virus
Perhaps one of the greatest examples of innovative thinking in 2010 was the Stuxnet virus. Let me explain. I am not referring to the technical aspects of the virus, which I'm sure were brilliant as well. I am speaking about the idea of creating a computer virus to solve an otherwise intractable problem. The problem being Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. There were two obvious options on the table as ways to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Option 1 was to bomb their nuclear production facilities. While this might be successful, it would bring about tremendous repercussions. Iran would retaliate through waves of worldwide terror. While the objective of stopping Iran might be achieved, there would be a tremendous price to pay. Option 2, which was actually implemented, was international sanctions on Iran. While this option was a "safer" option in that it would not bring about immediate retaliation, the sanctions were not effective at all in slowing down Iran's drive toward its nuclear goals. If you read the newspapers during this past year, all discussion vacillated between these two options. These seemed to be the only alternatives out there.
What wasn't discussed (for good reason) in the papers was an ingenious third alternative that would significantly damage Iran's nuclear sites without acting as an obvious causus belli. This option was to create a computer virus that would infiltrate the computers that controlled the nuclear production facilities and damage the production equipment beyond repair. Nothing like this had ever been done before, and Stuxnet, as the virus is now called became the first use of a cyberweapon by one (or more) country against another. The Iranians were loathe to admit that their nuclear program had been infiltrated and compromised and therefore their reaction was very muted. The Iranian program was set back (although we don't know for how long), and there were minimal repercussions.
What I love about this approach is that it was so innovative, so out-of-the-box, so original that it shows creative thinking at its best. Most people viewing the Iranian situation were locked between two unappealing paradigms. This third approach is a beautiful example of stepping beyond the obvious to solve a problem in a masterfully unique way.