Notes Antic Disposition

You Are Not Innovating

One of my pet hates is wanton abuse of the term ‘innovation’, most often from companies and individuals trying to fluff up their message and promote their work.

Innovation means a new way of doing something. At least, it used to mean that. Now, it apparently means a different way of doing something.

You want to believe you're doing something new, sure you do. But you’re not. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with providing alternatives to existing products, or refining, optimizing, and improving. Just don’t butcher the English language by stretching it beyond what’s reasonable. You’re only encouraging more social media douchebags to keep doing the same. The rest of us are not stupid and we don’t buy it.

To me, true innovation is not about inventing products, it’s about inventing markets. The product and the market co-evolve, they change the rules of the game. That is what it takes to do something new — it starts untested; it hasn’t been done before; it solves a unique problem.

Right now (especially, in New Zealand, where I see a lot of this crap originating) the use of the word has become utterly diluted, to the point of being facile and near meaningless when used in a marketing or information context.

I guess people will say — well, what do you expect, it’s marketing. Actually, I do expect more than that. I want to see people actually doing innovative things! Using the term improperly as a booster to prop-up your message is lazy and demonstrates a lack of integrity. It is a sign of poor understanding of writing, treating your audience as if they are dumb-dumb, unable to read between the lines. In fact, many people will interpret this directly as your lack of originality.

Stop trying to use this word as a magic invocation to summon substance to your press release or make your story resonate.

I don’t listen to anyone who talks about ‘innovation’ as a noun or about their adjectivized ‘innovative’ product. But I do pay close attention to people who are innovating as a verb — they let their actions speak for them, and that’s a lot more meaningful.