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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 three expressions died from the same disease: overuse. Now, the word “innovation” has been uttered so many times that it has 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 the title. MICHAEL GRABER & JOCELYN ATKINSON
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 posers and the lemmings of the business community. While scholars split hairs about the various types of innovations, the mere fact that they are arguing the topic means it’s dead. Leading companies define the market. They define the market by following a process that recreates market expectations, creating a leadership position. Meaning gets created by the language used to describe this naturally occurring process with companies who strive to grow. 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 and expectations – and the world of business understands this basic human truth less than most other fields. Readers of this column, can we make a deal? Can we start from here, Memphis, and create a movement? Can we redefine “innovation?” It used to be such a strong word, and is watered down to the point of meaninglessness.
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Finding a Better Word for ‘Innovation’ - Memphis Daily News
What is the thrust behind this word, anyway? Where I work we define it as Strategic Growth. Yet, other concepts could always fill the void. How about Value Generation? Is that what is at stake? Invention? Or is this too imbued with overtones of mystical pseudo science? Smart Business? Planning? Market foresight? Trend creation? Help. Innovation has died from exhaustion, overuse, and misuse. Innovation, as a label, has died. Business continues. Welcome to the creative process. Lead. Name it yourself. Long live ______. May it rise from Memphis along with the top line of the entire region. Jocelyn Atkinson and Michael Graber run the Southern Growth Studio, a strategic growth firm based in Memphis. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.
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