In recent years, the notion of design as a strategic advantage has gained a lot of traction amongst business leaders. This is a good thing. More and more designers (UX and otherwise) are having a greater voice in the direction of the company and/or product. However, the new and emerging trend seems to be “innovation.” It is the missing ingredient, the key to success, or better yet, something that can be commoditized and packaged up to increase next quarters revenue. Yeah… I don’t buy it.
The abuse of words like innovation, disruption, game changing and breakthrough is killing us. We’re tripping over our own egos, lost in the ignorance of romance for the vagaries of pseudo-thinking associated with these words. The more often people in a company use this word, the less likely anything worthy of that label is actually happening, as it’s often the confused and the desperate who believe simply saying a word again and again like a magic spell causes anything at all to happen. - Scott Berkun
You have to love the buzzword. The opiate of advertising and media. You can see it already. The first slide of a PowerPoint at business meetings, conference promotional materials and articles across the internet, all of them talking about “Innovation.” It is the new siren song sung by everyone from CEOs to Business Analysts to the Tech-media crowd. It is often used in conjunction with “design” to give it an air of cool. In reality, it is quite possibly masking a fundamental breakdown of internal business processes and a misunderstanding of customers, the market or even, the vision of the product itself.
“Innovation” isn’t really a bad word. In fact, it’s Latin origins mean “renewed, altered… to make new.” This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, many companies constantly strive to “re-align” their products in order to improve their customer satisfaction or streamline manufacturing processes. The greater problem occurs when “innovation” becomes a buzzword used to mask the reality that a process has failed, that leadership is not truly leading or that the passion has simply been drained out of the company.
This is nothing new. As Michael Beruit recently said, “This mania for innovation, or at least for endlessly repeating the word “innovation,” is just the latest in a long line of fads that have swept the business world for years.” And realistically it probably won’t change any time soon. Not unless more people begin to stand up and say, “Enough!”
Enough of the jargon. Enough of the trance-inducing repetition of “inspirational” thinking. We need leaders who are willing to focus on inspiring the people around them to do only what is essential; to find one thing that will make a better product and go after it like a mad-man. Someone to make the hard choices, remove dead weight and provide a new laser-sharp focus on what really matters—making a product that users love. In order to do that you must find that beautiful intersection of what users need and what you do well and focus like crazy to truly make it the best.
Each of us could create a long list of the buzzwords we hear thrown around on a daily basis, but I would rather challenge each of us to step up. Stop using these buzzwords. Start identifying the areas that are lacking and set about to be an agent of change. Rekindle your passion and do your best to other to rekindle theirs as well. Do not fear the executive chanting the latest euphemism, fear the willingness in yourself to succumb to the mantra and go along for the ride.
Its time to stop feeling sorry for ourselves because we think no one is listening and start doing what we love: creating things that change peoples lives, even in the tiniest little ways.