Is innovation dead?

On New Year’s Eve, December 31 2008, Bruce Nussbaum (editor of Business Week’s quarterly innovation inserts), declared that “Innovation is dead.” Provocative, coming from the man who leads the innovation beat at America’s leading business magazine.  It turns out he means that the word “innovation” is dead, due to hype and overuse…but not that innovation itself is any less important.  He writes “We need a deeper, more robust concept. ‘Transformation’ captures the key changes already underway.”  What is transformation?  ” ‘Transformation’ takes the best of ‘design thinking’ and ‘innovation’ and integrates them into a strategic guide for the unknowable and uncertain years ahead.”

Ah, so if we add together two overused buzzwords, we’ll get a newer and better buzzword.  Now that’s innovation!  I guess editors and weekly magazine writers have to be provocative every now and then, to sell more issues.  (Blogs are supposed to be provocative, too…I should work on that.)

I emphasize creativity and innovation in this blog not because it’s a recent trend; I’ve been doing research on creativity for almost 20 years.  I emphasize innovation because of the mass of solid research showing that more innovative companies are more successful (more total shareholder return etc.)  I agree with Mr. Nussbaum that design thinking is a transformative way of thinking and naturally links with innovation.  However, design thinking is more limited in scope than innovation…I’ll elaborate on that in a future post.  Maybe that one will be provocative!

3 thoughts on “Is innovation dead?

  1. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe that innovation could be dead. There will always be a requirement – or even just desire – for better products, business models, new ways of doing things etc.
    (here’s my cue on why I think it shouldn’t be let to die: )

    But it is more than certain that it is “over-rated” to quote Scott Berkun ( . Berkun explains something that I had myself felt all along: true innovators don’t “talk” about innovation. They just go ahead and do it. This is certainly very far away from the romantic view of innovators and the so-called Eureka moment, but Berkun argues that innovators won’t use words like “innovation” per se but change management, new projects/programmes, launching new products or ideas etc.
    I recommend his book entitled “the myths of innovation” a very enjoyable read, jam-packed with home truths.

    1. I like Berkun’s book “The myths of innovation”. I have my own list of creativity myths (there are ten whoppers on there!). Regarding whether innovators call it “innovation” or not, I suspect that depends a lot on the corporate culture they are in…skilled change agents use the metaphors, narratives, and concepts that are most aligned with how an organization perceives itself.

  2. Talking about innovation is not the same as understanding what it means, or being willing to take the necessary steps to make it happen. I don’t get fit by talking about exercise. I think we still have a lot to learn about what it actually means to innovate and how to go about it.

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