It seems like you can’t open up a magazine, newspaper or website without something being innovative. In meetings or press events it’s like companies are a crusade to identify as trendsetting and innovation has brought clarity to their aspirations. I’ll own up to it, I’m just as guilty as the next guy focusing our reviews on innovations we find in new product releases. However, technical innovation is just part of the story and we’ve lost sight of what the word really means.
Technical innovation is a different beast than Innovation.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Innovation lately, Huawei released the Mate 20 Pro and the article I wrote was about how the Smartphone market was stagnating and how it was a good thing. The following week I hopped on a week to Seoul to check out the Samsung R&D labs, we stopped into the Samsung Museum of Innovation. That’s where the inspiration for this weeks focus on Innovation came from.
Innovation used to mean creating light, which turned night into day. NIGHT INTO DAY!
Technical innovation is putting a fingerprint scanner behind a display. It’s cool, but it’s not redefining a category. But I guess that’s why the word disruptive has also caught on like wildfire.
We took the time to look at the history of the word Innovation, it’s an interesting read if you want to understand it’s evolution and the reason behind we’ve started to tossing the word innovation like beads at mardi gras.
Innovation has come to mean a newness derived from research and development. Which is why we and futurism or thought leadership conference has become buzzword bingo. “Next-Gen”, “Agile”, “Future Ready” “Rightsizing” now just throw Millennial around a few times and everyone should understand you’re creating the future.
Big ideas that change everything aren’t around every corner. Most of the time those who seek to innovate match their competitors risk by releasing an undifferentiated product. You can argue it’s death by “Me Too” or you can see the incremental improvements the industry makes by imitation and following the same trends as more valuable than defining the cutting edge.
Marginal gains and micro innovations across all areas of business rather than the lust for one, the big idea is how we need to see our ecosystem today.
Those who choose the tortoise instead of the hare call themselves “Incrementalists”.
After all, Elon Musk didn’t invent the electric car.
However, like the technical innovations that are destroying the conversations about smartphones, incremental innovation won’t let you leapfrog the competition.
History has shown that there are only a dozen or so innovations that really changed society.
The use of the word innovation is out of control, it’s losing its meaning. It’s the most overused work in American and if we look to the dictionary it’s easy to see why.
Webster’s defines innovation as “the introduction of something new.” It’s hard to dispute that’s accurate. But it doesn’t seem particularly useful.
Turning night into day, was technically new. The scale and impact of that innovation vs adding a notch to a smartphone are on a slightly different scale.
When Should we call something Innovative?
I’m not against the word innovation, I just think we need to start using it properly. I’m going to see the world as a glass half full and hope that every marketing agency that has access to the internet is reading this. (share.. hint, hint).
If we’re going to call something innovative we like Joe Dwyer’s definition:
“Innovation is the process of creating value by applying novel solutions to meaningful problems.”
On Digintent he has a test:
Is it novel? The notion of novelty is baked right into the word “innovation.” If it’s not new, it’s probably more optimization than innovation.
Does it solve a meaningful problem? If not, maybe it’s art instead of innovation. That’s not to say art isn’t valuable, but it’s generally not designed to solve a problem. To us, innovation is.
Does it create value? If not, maybe it’s an invention rather than innovation. Inventions can lead to value creation, but usually not until someone applies them through innovation.
Media can work harder to use the word correctly, or at least less liberally, and organizations would likely benefit from understanding what innovation really is.
Mobile Geeks has been part of the problem, we love calling things Innovative to catch headlines. We’ve been classifying incremental improvements as innovations.
From this article on, I’ll do my best to only call things innovative when they truly are!
Special Thanks to Samsung who sponsored my travel to the Innovation Museum & Seoul, they were the inspirations behind this weeks focus on Innovation. All thoughts and ideas are my own.