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!