Someone recently said to me: “Whatever you do, don’t say Innovation

In my line of work that would make life a little difficult.  

Innovation, one of the most prolific buzzwords of the naughties, is currently facing some backlash. 

Some of those leading the backlash argue that the amount of significant change attributed to Innovation has slackened. They suggest that if we take away the Internet and its most prolific off shoots like Google and Facebook, we haven’t actually seen great, life enhancing, available to the masses Innovation since early 20th century advances like the motorcar, aeroplane and the refrigerator. 

On the other side of the fence, many are overwrought by the bombardment of so called innovations and are yearning after olden ways. A good example of this is Gillette’s recent attempt to celebrate 110 years since their first patent. The online campaign depicted their original razor patent side by side with its current counterpart, along with the tagline #keepinnovating.  Alas the campaign backfired with almost 100% of responses stating they preferred the original razor to the current incarnation. It appeared as though tradition rated far more favourably than Innovation.  

And then there’s the passion for ridiculing new ideas both good and bad. I’m sure many of you will have sat in a brainstorm session where idea after idea is knocked down, rejected, laughed at until no-one has the courage to make any more suggestions.  Programs like  Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den may profess to be searching for the next great success story, but their popularity rests just as much, if not more so, on the viewers’ desire to cut down those who dare to think outside the box.  Innovation takes time, energy and resources, and those that don’t enter the race, don’t bother or want to understand it, often prefer to jeer at those trying. 

So if people are tired of Innovation, if we’re really not making huge advances anymore and if it has so many enemies, should we just give up and accept the status quo? 

No, on the contrary.

It would be terrific to be part of, or at the very least live to see the next major life altering Innovation, however, Innovation is just as much about making a difference to specific groups of people as changing life for all humanity.  From improving your customer experience, to speeding up a manufacturing process, to reducing industrial waste…such advancements may impact comparatively small groups of people, but the Innovation within them is definitely worth shouting about.  

Likewise Innovation is not only about designing disruptive business models. It is also about reinvigorating existing business models to keep their products and services relevant to modern audiences. If you think about the recent demise of brands like Snowgum, Ernest Hillier and Angus & Robertson the slogan Innovate or die still resonates as strongly as it ever did. 

Whether we realise it or not, Innovation is something we all live for. We love finding ways to make our work more efficient, we love to find new ways to make more and save more money, we want to prevent famine, cure cancer, and we want to see, feel and enjoy new things.   

Successful leaders recognise this. They know that their success rests on their ability to move forward, improve and add value. These leaders know that in order to unearth the next game-changing inspiration, they need to create an environment that welcomes new ideas and has a process for managing them. These leaders want to create a structured and repeatable process that can be used autonomously without their ongoing direction. These leaders are investing in developing their teams’ Innovation skills so that they can confidently predict and/or answer their next challenge.    

Its moment of reverence may have temporarily passed, but Innovation is still the holy grail of every CEO worth their salt.

“Whatever you do, do say Innovation.”

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