Innovation: Leaders vs. Liars

Innovation

There’s a big difference between doing something and saying you’re going to do something.

Or as I learned early on–words are cheap, but actions speak loud and clear.

The Wall Street Journal (23 May 2012) reported this week about how many companies (and even academic institutions) overuse the word innovation–“the introduction of something new.”

It’s practically become cliche–“chief innovation officers, innovation teams, innovation strategies, and even innovation days.”

So is innovation just the buzzword du jour or is ultimately something more?

Of course, the more we use something like the term innovation, the greater the chance to dilute its meaning.

– “33,528–times [innovation] was mentioned in quarterly and annual reports last year.”

– “255–books published in the last 90 days with innovation in the title.”

– “43%–of 260 executives who said their company has a chief innovation officer.”

However, innovation is not just a word to throw around and use lightly–innovation is our bread and butter in this country; it is what differentiates us from our global competitors (i.e. its one of our main competitive advantages) and is a source of our economic strength.

Not all innovation is created equal–there is “innovation lite” (my term), where we take something and make it better, faster, or cheaper, and then there is “disruptive innovation”–where we really bring something new to the market.

“Everybody’s innovating because any change is innovation,” but not every innovation is transformative.

We can’t afford for innovation to lose its meaning, because leaders and companies that abuse it and dilute it–and don’t ultimately deliver–will end up losing their jobs and ultimately the companies themselves.

Real innovation is like condiments, use it sparingly and it can pack a huge punch–pour it on indiscriminately, and you might as well just throw away the whole dish.

What we need are innovation leaders that don’t just mouth the words and buy the toys, but champion it, invest in it, and empower and encourage their employees to make it happen.

Innovate or die is our reality–so be a true innovation leader–don’t lie to yourself if it isn’t the real thing. 😉

(Source Photo: herewith attribution to Seth Waite)