Innovation is Out of Date
The title of this column is the title of a Power Point slide I often use in my presentations to CEOs, businesses and general audiences. Though slightly tongue in cheek it is a true statement. The point of the slide is that in the Shift Age all aspects of life have so sped up that we now live in a world of disruption and transformation. Innovation is simply iterative change.
I first started to state this position some four years ago. I had just completed a keynote address to a ballroom of some 2,500 people in Las Vegas. After the speech I was being walked to a booth on the trade show floor where I was going to sign books. As I walked down the isles with company booths on each side, I kept hearing “we provide innovative solutions to” “we are innovators in the space” “we bring innovation to our clients”. On and on I kept hearing how everyone was practicing innovation.
Here is the dictionary definition of innovation:
something new or different introduced:
Well if everyone is innovating, then innovation becomes meaningless. If everyone is doing something new or different, that becomes the norm.
Just like the person we all know whose response to a wide variety of conversational comments is “Awesome”. Awesome this, awesome that. Well if everything is awesome, nothing is. The definition of awesome is:
inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear:
There is no good, no great, no well done, no smart, just awesome. Every time the word is used it is not about feeling the reverence in the definition. An over-used word that has, as a result, become meaningless.
The point of the Power Point slide is not only the degradation of the word through overuse, it is that in the Shift Age, significant change comes from disruption and transformation. Uber is not an innovation, it is a disruption. Amazon is not an innovative business it is a massively disruptive one. Airbnb is a disruption. Cellular wireless is a transformation of communications, not an innovation. Steve Jobs was not an innovator, he was a disruptor. He gave us the iPhone, a complete disruption of the cellular phone at the time. If he had been simply an innovator, he would have given us a Blackberry with a larger screen.
Perhaps speaking about innovation makes one feel with it or cool. To me it makes whoever uses the word a lot sound like a flashback to the 1990s, when the word first became widely used. Use the word at the peril of sounding behind the curve in our disruptive times.
The question at the end of the slide that has the column title at the top is:
What might disrupt you?
CEOs should spend time looking at the current and future landscape to ask that question. They should not spend time talking about innovation unless they want to sound like a relic of recent days gone by.
I make my living speaking and writing about the future. Words are important to me. Words have meaning. Finding descriptive words that are new and different is fun to do. I respect the use of language, [though I do have trouble with punctuation sometimes].
I cannot stand how we as a culture say the same things, the same words, the same phrases, usually with a tone of intelligence or self-importance. Here are some of the worst that are hard not to hear every day.
Please stop saying “speaking truth to power” “the adult in the room” “the bottom line is” “in the final analysis” and of course “at the end of the day” I think I have heard all of these phrases anytime I watch cable news for more that 2 hours.
Also guilty with “at the end of the day” and “the bottom line” Add to that these endlessly repeated phrases “we need to all get on the same page”, “we need out-of the-box-thinking” I am sure I have heard most of these in a single sentence. Something like “At the end of the day we all need be on the same page, use out of the box thinking to provide innovation to our clients. That is the bottom line”
Where in there is unique or original communication? To pull another such phrase from the 1980s “gag me with a spoon” from valley girl days. That what all of the above phrases are: business and media valley girl talk.
Guaranteed get rich quick scheme
There is no way to do this, but I think it would make me a billionaire in a month. I get paid:
-a penny every time someone says the word “Awesome” more than once a day
-a nickel every time a female over the age of 12 says “oh my god” or “OMG!”
-a dime every time a male over the age of 15 uses the word “dude”
To all those reading these words, please listen to yourself. Become conscious of how much you use any of the phrases in this column. I promise you will be surprised at how much you sound like everyone else. Why would you want that?
Please, can we collectively stop with all these phrases! The bottom line is that, at the end of the day we want to be on the same page, speak truth to power, always be the adult in the room and use out of the box thinking to innovate.