Innovation Is Beyond Buzz

Innovation. Just the word or term itself is enough to start heated discussions.

I experienced this once more as I got some interesting comments from Scott Berkun and Ralph Kerle in response to my Why CEO’s Don’t Get Innovation post in BusinessWeek.

One of Scott Berkun’s comments went like this “If we dropped the i-word, or at least attempted to define it, I think we’d get to the core of all this much faster.” This comment builds further on an interesting article, Good Beats Innovative Nearly Every Time, in which Scott urges us to loose usage of the word innovation.

I appreciate Scott’s comments as well as I enjoyed reading his article. However, as I believe innovation will become even more important for companies, I think we are stuck with the word and we can just as well get used to it. It will not go away.

The big question is how companies will define innovation to their situation. It does not really matter how academics, consultants or others define it; each company need to define this in a way that makes sense for their company, their employees and their partners. Then, they can start developing a common language on innovation that can help them build a strong innovation culture.

In another discussion related to my article, Ralph Kerle stated that innovation is an outcome. I have to disagree as I believe innovation is a process; not an outcome. The outcome is what you get out of an innovation process in which creativity plays a big role.

You can plan this process just as you can plan other management and business processes/disciplines such as sales, logistics and finance. You can also train people to become better innovators especially when you understand that innovation works best with a holistic approach. It needs to be about more than just products and technologies.

Innovation is beginning to look more like science than art, as we in many cases are now capable of taking previous patterns and experiences and use this to predict outcomes based on the input and processes we use. This maturity is one key reason why innovation is becoming even more important – and complex.

Both Scott Berkun and Ralph Kerle argue that we should forget about the term innovation. My response is that innovation is no longer a buzz word. It is here to stay and we can argue on definitions – which I always try to avoid, as I believe each company must find their own definition. But we can’t just pretend the term does not exist or should be replaced by another one. Those days are long gone.

Let me know what you think.

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