The Cult of Innovation

I am as pleased as Punch to announce that I am in the March 5, 2007 print edition of BusinessWeek (the one with “Customer Service Champs” on the cover) with an editorial called The Cult of Innovation. An excerpt:

Innovation is traditionally understood as a combination of insight and invention, with insight being the “Aha!” moment and invention being the company’s muscle to make it happen. This is all well and good, but one crucial aspect of the definition is missing: the ability to judge the inspiration and determine whether it is worthwhile to spend the company’s resources on the invention. Without this judgment, innovation is just The New, and new isn’t always better. It’s a louder sizzle, not a juicier steak. For innovation to be truly important, it needs to resonate with consumers. Insights need to be derived from the unmet needs and desires of people, not simply the company’s feeling that it needs to innovate.

Update: This is no longer premium content, so the link now points to the free version!

2 thoughts on “The Cult of Innovation

  1. I read the full article in BusinessWeek and found it quite interesting. I understand your point, that forcing innovation using ‘Innovation Teams’ will most likely lead to meaningless ideas. As would forcing anyone to develop anything under a time/budget/product-line constraint.
    I am not clear on your view regarding new ideas where you state they are a ‘false innovation, driven by the company, not by the consumer.’ Are you arguing that internal Innovation Teams will lack the outside perspective needed to ‘design’ an innovation geared towards their consumers? Or do you mean that ‘new’ doesn’t always mean better?

  2. Not exactly. Deadlines and constraints are inevitable (and can even trigger innovative ideas), and innovation teams are fine, I suppose, provided they are focused on customer’s unmet needs and not only the company’s unmet needs. Just because the company needs to innovate to grow doesn’t mean customers need their innovations (e.g. Crystal Pepsi). New isn’t always better, unless it connects with customers. Then it is meaningful, which is the best kind of innovation.

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