When someone asks you to be Innovative, what is it they are asking you to do?
In my workplace, Innovation has become quite a buzzword lately. There have even been rumors about a new Department of Innovation in the works, which is supposed to gather like-minded Innovators together so they can be even more Innovative.
But why Innovation? And why should we focus on being Innovative? What will happen to me if I say I don’t want to be Innovative?
I think we should be careful about using terms which are considered “holy”, where the opposite/lack of that term is considered “evil”. For example, how could I even dare to say we should think twice before we consider Collaboration? These types of one-way terms are more often used as a cue for applause rather than for their discussion points.
So if we Taboo the word Innovation, what is it that people actually mean when they want it?
When I hear people commonly using the term Innovation, it often involves developing solutions to a problem which are considered “out of the box”. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad concept, but does that mean that all solutions to problems have to be “out of the box”? At what point should I consider that maybe I need to get rid of my current “box”, or update what my “box” contains? If we always want to be Innovative by this definition, isn’t this also requiring that our current knowledge always be one or more steps behind? Would my efforts be discounted if your concept of what is Innovative is just what I consider to be Mundane?
If I proposed that instead of a Department of Innovation, instead we should have a Department of the Mundane, would I be considered instantly “evil” and booed off the stage?
Innovation is just a means to an end. Not every change is an improvement, but every improvement is necessarily a change. Innovation can bring about big changes, but we must remember that these should always be aimed towards improvement.
If we really had to create a new department, it should be the Department of Improvement. If improvement requires changes which are considered Innovative, so be it. Likewise, if improvement requires changes which are considered Mundane, so be it. (But really, why would we need a separate department for something that everyone should aspire for?) If what we really want is improvement, then we should aim for improvement regardless if it involves innovative or mundane changes.
When people ask for Innovation, maybe what they really want is the applause that goes along with Innovation, a talking point to impress the audience, or a wow-factor to attract investors. These could also be desirable, but these goals should be specified at the onset and not disguised as seeking improvement.
If our actual goal is to improve, then Innovation for the sake of Innovation is just a Lost Purpose. We should optimize for and implement changes best suited for improvement, be they innovative or mundane.
If we want to Win, then we shouldn’t care if our optimal strategies are innovative or mundane. If we want to Win, then we shouldn’t care if we were right or if we were wrong in our thinking a year ago. If we want to win, then we shouldn’t care if we are recognized by others. If we want to Win, then we should focus on Winning.