MICHAELGRABER &JOCELYN ATKINSON
Finding a Better Word for ‘Innovation’
By Michael Graber & Jocelyn Atkinson
Remember when the word “paradigm” was killed in the dot-com era?How about “synergy” “edgy” or the prefix “e-” – these threeexpressions died from the same disease: overuse.Now, the word “innovation” has been uttered so many times that ithas lost its breath, meaning and resonance. A quick glance of death by burnout: there were 33,528 mentions of “innovation” in quarterly and annual reports last year alone; 255 new books were published in the last ninety days had “innovation” in thetitle. According to a recent Capgemini study, four in 10 executives claim a chief innovation officer. Yet the findings show a dark side. Most of the executives interviewed claim that the role is“for appearances” and that there is not a clear strategy for their innovation efforts. A consulting industry now exists to aid innovation efforts, with project costs ranging from$30,000 to $1 million.Even business schools try to squeeze life out of the tired phrase – 28 percent of them note“innovation” in their mission statements alone.In plain language, the word “innovation” has been hijacked by the unimaginative, the posersand the lemmings of the business community. While scholars split hairs about the various types of innovations, the mere fact that they arearguing the topic means it’s dead.Leading companies define the market. They define the market by following a process thatrecreates market expectations, creating a leadership position. Meaning gets created by thelanguage used to describe this naturally occurring process with companies who strive togrow.Then, the problem starts. All the followers use the language of the few leaders, because they lack the will to create in the first place. It’s sickening, really. Language creates meaning andexpectations – and the world of business understands this basic human truth less than mostother fields.Readers of this column, can we make a deal? Can we start from here, Memphis, and create amovement? Can we redefine “innovation?” It used to be such a strong word, and is watereddown to the point of meaninglessness.
Finding a Better Word for ‘Innovation’ - Memphis Daily Newshttp://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2012/jun/27/ﬁnding-...1 of 26/29/12 1:37 PM