Innovation is simply defined on Wikipedia as finding a better way of doing something. But what's lacking from that definition is the fact that it must also be something original and new. A lot of companies nowadays claim that what they're doing is "innovative, groundbreaking, there is nothing else quite like it, and we are going to change the world". Much like this hilarious scene from the new TV show Silicon Valley.
The truth is that the market is oversaturated. And in this day and age it is becoming harder to be genuinely unique. So how do you stand out in a world full of so-called cutting-edge leaders? You need to stop saying what you think people want to hear and start thinking outside the box. Today we're talking about what it truly means to be innovative and offering some words to use instead.
In an article by the Wall Street Journal entitled "Innovation Is a Nice, but Too Often Misunderstood, Buzzword", they hit the nail on the head when it comes to companies claiming to be "innovative". It also talks about how companies spend too much time looking for groundbreaking ideas at the expense of incremental advancement. There are several great quotes from the article that sum up our ideas very well.
"The preoccupation with how much time our company spends innovating and whether changes are radical or incremental can blind us from contemplating why it’s innovating—and for whom.
Look around. How many “groundbreaking” innovations, be them products, services or ways of operating, are thinly veiled attempts to firm the ground on which established powers stand or to jump onto it? How many make a positive difference that stands the test of time?
Genuine innovation is about renewal, not about preservation. It is often the product of imagination outside, and often against, the norm fueled by a cocktail of discontent, concern, curiosity and hope. It is not always, necessarily, universally beautiful and good."Enough about why "innovation" is often misused and misunderstood, let's talk about some words to use instead now.
Words to Use Instead:
Collaboration - sometimes the best way to generate new ideas is to bounce them off one another. Collaboration is the process of working together to reach a desired outcome or goal. It relies on openness and willingness to work together, but when done right can be extremely powerful. Collaborate with team members on a regular basis to generate new ideas and think about why you are innovating.
Ideation - similar to innovation, ideation is the formation of ideas and concepts. Essentially, it is idea generation. You can come up with really great ideas if you can harness the power of others and reduce a phenomenon known as groupthink. IdeaScale is a perfect example of ideation at work. Users can submit their ideas when they feel inspired. Others in the group can vote on ideas, forming a community around your brand. And then finally, you get answers to your questions before you even thought to ask. It's a clever roundabout way of finding out what you need to grow. Ideation is a great way to combat the feeling associated with using boring buzzwords.
Variation - variation directly relates back to what the Wall Street Journal was talking about when they said the words "incremental innovation". Sometimes, all you need to be successful is a smarter way of doing something; and that can be in the form of a slight variable change. Innovation doesn't always have to take the form of something from space we've never heard or seen before, sometimes it can be a quiet change that speaks the loudest.
Novelty - novelty is a great alternative word because it is not overused (yet...). What it means to be novel is that it has the quality of being new, original or unusual. In fact, it is derived from the Latin word "novu" meaning "new". There's even a marketing tactic that people have named "the Novelty Strategy". However, it must be used conservatively. They say that if you're not careful, marketing your new tech product as a novelty item can come back to bite you. Read the full article here, and see why some element of novelty is good, but too much can just seem buzzworthy.