Innovation Overload: Why Saying 'Creativity' Is Not Enough29 August, 2014 / Articles
What’s the opposite of innovation?, the joke begins. A tart punchline quickly follows: “Innovation consultants.”
Since I teach, coach and sometimes consult on innovation and creative leadership, that cynical joke gives me pause. Consultants of all kinds are easy marks, of course, whether they are from well-known global firms or one-person shops. But it is innovation, as an idea and, increasingly, the basis of a cottage industry for consulting, advising, coaching and even counseling, that is the real target here.
Isn’t innovation good, though?, we ask. Doesn’t thinking, designing, building and leading for innovation enable firms of all kinds to create and capture value? Doesn’t imaginative collaboration, teaming, and organizing lead to breakthroughs that can transform businesses, industries and even markets? Doesn’t innovation ultimately benefit individuals by encouraging and nurturing self-awareness, empathy, courage, and growth – human values that help contribute to personal fulfillment?
All true. Yet that very sweep and sprawl of meanings is part of the problem. Innovation is everywhere, from mission and vision statements to strategic positioning and brand marketing to team charters and individual performance goals. Likewise, creativity, often in adjectival form, has become a necessary qualifier for nearly all aspects of management and operations: leadership, strategy, talent management, organizational design, customer or client relationships, collaboration, and teamwork. Even creative accounting has become a worthy aspiration (just not “too” creative…).