Thoughts on innovation

Symantec fired their CEO, in part because he was not making progress on innovation/new product development (see previous blog post). This change seems like more evidence that people use the word innovation as a buzzword and don’t really understand what it means. It also brings up a topic for a future blog post, can large companies truly innovate?

In Symantec’s case, the CEO was charged with redefining the company – a move from an antivirus to a “security” firm. Can we really call failure to make that transformation lack of innovation?

Back in December, the Wall Street Journal had an almost comical article about the use and abuse of the word innovation. See Is a Peanut Butter Pop-Tart an Innovation (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304854804579236601411310502)

Following that, Bill Taylor posted Stop Me Before I “Innovate” Again! to the Harvard Business Review Blog (http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/12/stop-me-before-i-innovate-again/) and challenged everyone to ban the use of the word in 2014.

Since we can’t seem to stop ourselves from talking about innovation, here’s another take from Ron Ashkenas (http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/dont-abandon-innovation-simplify-it/). Ashkenas’s post is great in that it walks people through the process of innovation. I agree that simple is better or, said another way, complicate only as necessary. I don’t think we are applying innovation concepts consistently or that it is appropriate to call certain things innovation at all until we do, it will remain a buzzword without much meaning.

Perhaps we need to standardize some “buckets” around innovation, adjacency, new market expansion, packaging, and plain old “hail mary passes” that are all occasionally confused for new ideas that are truly innovative.

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