Bringing Meaning Back to Innovation

If Time magazine were to do a spread on the 100 most overused words in 2012, I think the word “innovation” would at least break the top 5. It’s unfortunate because innovation is such a beautiful word.

It’s very melodic—its four syllables moving up, then down, then up, and down again. Visually, it’s very well balanced—its collection of letters creating a low center of gravity while the i’s and t poke up to pique some attention. It has 5 vowels and 5 consonants, with the repeating i’s, n’s and o’s spread apart nicely. And in the middle of it all are the letters o-v-a, which have the connotation of birth and fruitfulness.

Regardless of its overuse, innovation means something to all of us, in a business and personal sense. Innovation is rebirth—rebirth of an idea, a product or how we treat our customers. Innovation is the motor that brings freshness into our ever-changing world. Innovation is both a destroyer and creator—it burns down the stodgy and ineffective and from its ashes creates new and beautiful ways to add value.

If you’re reading this post, you, like me, are likely someone that cares about innovation in your personal and business life. You see things in your life that needs to be changed—not just for the sake of changing, but because changing those things will bring value into your life and into the lives of the people around you. That’s why technology is so exciting today—technology is a tremendous change agent and with recent developments in cloud, mobile and social computing, it is accessible to the masses.

So, how can we be innovative?

First, we have to realize that it is our personal responsibility to be innovative. No one has to give us permission. Innovation does not need to be in our job description for us to take responsibility to change what is no longer working. If we don’t innovate in our personal or business life (and let’s face it, it’s the same life), we run the risk of being ineffective—or worse, we stop having fun.

Second, we have to become students again. Life is a never-ending opportunity to learn and we need to look at the world through inquisitive eyes—understanding instead of judging; analyzing instead of assuming; listening instead of being closed-minded. Only through the process of learning will we be able to internalize the reasons for change and how to make those changes.

Third, we must not be afraid to try something new. One of the most destructive thought patterns is, “we’ve always done it this way, so why change it?” Change can sometimes be difficult, especially when we’re taken outside of our comfort zone. But like physical exercise, sometimes we have to take ourselves outside of our comfort zone in order to grow.

Lastly, do something. Anything. Get busy. Try something different. Try out some new tools. Talk to peers about problems we see in our businesses. Help motivate them to be change agents as well.

The world is ripe for innovation. People are out of work, economic uncertainty is causing people to rethink how they allocate time and resources, and there are countless tools available today that can help us transform our businesses and our lives. The world needs us to take charge and help create something better.

What are we waiting for?

2 thoughts on “Bringing Meaning Back to Innovation

  1. Jimar, good to see you posting again. I agree completely. Innovation, entrepreneurship and a number of other terms have been devalued through the 24/7 media cycle. Too many people, too many watered down opinions?

    I like the point you made about rebirth and being students again. Those ideas remind me of Mark Andreesen’s quote: “We have to try hard and liberate ourselves from assumptions.” Getting past “it’s always been done this way” is helped a long way by paying close attention to the many silent assumptions that carry our thoughts and opinions unchallenged every day. From my experience, innovation is about rethinking, deeply, how and why a job needs to be done. In my opinion, sometimes, innovaiton means eliminating or displacing a job rather than making it work better… less is more, but abstract and contrarian thinking is not often within our comfort zone when we have to challenge ourselves.

    Keep blogging man, good to see some new ideas onscreen. – J

    1. Thanks Joel. Your point about questioning “silent” assumptions is a poignant one and it’s probably the hardest thing to do. We bring our own biases based on our experiences and tendencies regardless of how hard we try to look at something objectively. We must be able to recognize the bias, identify it for what it is, and try to look through other perspectives to see if we can identify both the bias and the supposed truth.

      Understanding the job to be done is core, but innovators need to put the job in relation to the basic human need, cutting through conventions that have been placed there previously. Horace’s presentation on “What do we hire books for?” is a great example of this.

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