Should We Ban the Word Innovation?

Ban InnovationThe word innovation and its meaning has seemingly elicited much attention recently: mostly negative. Has it lost its meaning? Should we abandon even using it? Two recent articles on the HBR Blog Network caught my attention. One titled “Stop Me Before I “Innovate” Again!” (1) used the example of the CEO of Kellogg recently citing the Gone Nutty! Peanut-butter Pop-Tart as a key “innovation” for 2013. The author, Bill Taylor, wonders if that is considered “innovative”, than what new product is not? Fair enough. A second article, “Say “No” to Innovation-in-General” (2) by Maxwell Wessel almost on cue provides a good case, which I happen to agree with, that the real problem is not the word itself but that often those talking about innovations don’t differentiate between various types. Not all innovations are created equal. I do think we err on both sides. In other words, sometimes we only consider a product innovative if it uses radical, new technology. We focus on the latest technology as a surrogate for defining whether something is innovative or not. On the other hand, sometimes, even something like the Gone Nutty! Peanut-butter Pop-Tart is considered innovative. Maybe both are right, or maybe both are wrong.  Continue reading