Innovation is too innovative

For years, I have heard people talk about innovation; wanting to be innovative, planning to focus on innovation, having innovation in their strategic plans.

When I ask them to define what innovation is, they stare at me as if I don’t know what I am talking about.

The reason I ask this is two-fold.

First, aside from the fact that innovation has become a buzzword, I have found that not everyone has the same definition of innovation.

Imagine a world where everyone has innovation on their agenda and everyone is doing innovative things, there would be an amazing ChatGPT like invention every second of the day.

Next, I ask because I don’t believe every organization must and needs to be innovative.

In fact, most organizational structures don’t align well for creative out-side-the-box models.

Imagine, do you really want to be implementing something completely new, never been done before on a regular consistent basis?

Do innovative ideas result in immediate cost or time saving and revenue generation?

The truth to both is, no.

Real innovation comes with a substantial amount of time, effort, energy, and resources often over a very long time period.

I have also seen ideas be tagged as innovative when in fact, they have been done a million times over.

I suppose it just sounds good or feels good to say we are being innovative.

Innovation requires having the time to focus on what others don’t have the time for.

It requires, risks, experimentation, failures, all of which are not always welcome in a typical organizational system.

Innovation may require communication and collaboration across teams, whereby individual achievement is not the goal.

Yet, many performance management systems will encourage individual achievement and rewards.

I would also add that I do appreciate and work towards incremental improvement, yet are incremental improvements really innovative?

All this to say, maybe sometimes we don’t need to be innovative, maybe being innovative is a bridge too far, especially if we don’t have an agreed definition as to what it is.

For me, incremental improvements, good ideas even if not innovative, and even basic change often times is good enough.

Depending on the organization, resources, industry, and people, maybe innovation is too innovative, for now.

P.S. ChatGPT did not write this blog :)