Innovation 1.0: A guy in his garage
Innovation 2.0: A team in their research lab
Innovation 3.0: People – dispersed….. everywhere!
And we’re going to skip right over Innovation 4.0 – Innovation 6.0 to introduce the best, most up-to-date, most exciting version of Innovation yet – yes, that’s right:
If you’re using Innovation 3.0 right now, Innovation 7.0 is four better!!
Innovation 7.0 is innovation that’s embedded in your actual cells! It lets you crowdsource your customer-related design-driven open innovation! What could be better? Nothing! If you’re not using Innovation 7.0 right now, your competitors will crush you like a bug! You’ll be like Kevin Kline – stuck in cement, and your competitors will be like the steamroller!
OK, so maybe Innovation 7.0 is a lousy idea. As I’m writing about it, I realise that there’s not much substance to the idea – it’s mostly hype. We should probably just ignore it.
I ran across two things this morning that got me thinking about hype and innovation. The first was a post by George Siemens talking about Web 3.0 for libraries. George critiques an article by saying that the ideas in it are basically sound, but that by wrapping them into the Web 3.0 idea it gives them an unuseful air of hype. And then there was Scott Berkun’s suggestion that we stop using the word ‘innovation’ completely. He makes two main points – that innovation is defined so broadly that it’s a useless term, and that firms would be better off aiming to be competent before they even think about being innovative.
I’ve got mixed feelings about both posts. I agree with Berkun’s second point to a degree – that’s why we keep talking about the importance of executing ideas. Doing things well is where many firms fail so improving the basics of performance is an imperative for many.
And businesses in particular are certainly vulnerable to fads in thinking, so hype can in fact be dangerous. On the other hand, I’m not sure that saying ‘don’t use this phrase’ actually gets us very far.
Here’s an argument that parallels Berkun’s: a penguin and an eagle are both birds, yet they look completely different, they act differently, they live in different environments, there’s no clear connection between the two of them. If we try to use the word ‘bird’ to describe two such obviously different things, then it is a useless word, and we shouldn’t use it at all.
Innovation can be defined clearly. It does get used to signify many different things – because it describes a broad phenomenon: executing new ideas so that they have economic value. It’s a classification equivalent to ‘bird’. Of course there are different ways to do this. There are many different ways to do this. Which is why we have so many different types of innovation to discuss. Incremental and radical, open and closed, design-driven and customer-focused: penguins and eagles. They are among the many different ways that we can execute ideas with economic importance.
I love Berkun’s The Myths of Innovation – nearly every idea in the book is worthwhile. But I don’t agree with him here. Of course we must execute more effectively. And yes, don’t believe the hype. And use language as precisely as possible. But I don’t think we can afford to throw out the concept of innovation just yet. I think there are a lot of great ideas out there that we still need to execute. You can forget “Innovation 7.0”, but we still need “innovation”.