Eschew Innovation

When a word is excessively used to represent anything and everything, it ultimately means nothing. What irony when that word is “Innovation”.

Used to be we’d make overt references to “innovation” when talking up our products and services. Now we feel incomplete if the word doesn’t appear in self-aggrandizing platitudes used to describe ourselves.

Let me momentarily get off my high horse to confess than I too have been complicit in devaluing its meaning. After all, isn’t it infinitely easier to sum up our intent to create something in a single word, than to demonstrate it through actual results and experiences?

Recently, I participated in an unfortunately named “Innovation Forum”. Meticulously planned, participants were arbitrarily assigned topics and given access to financials, reports, org charts, etc. Their task? To come up with the Next Big Innovative Idea.

I’d found my casus belli.

Attempts to template innovation in the workplace are perilous and obscenely counterproductive. So here’s an alternative – Eschew Innovation. Ignite Passion.

Real passion has an implicit sincerity – it allows employees and dorm room students alike to slave away and often create something far greater than the sum of the status quo.

Fluff?

Check out the New York Time’s story on four friends who’ve set out to outdo Facebook by tapping into the privacy backlash against the behemoth. Relying heavily on crowd funding website Kickstarter, they set themselves the goal of raising $10,000 in 39 days for their own social networking software called Diaspora. 12 days later, they’ve raised $100,000. Did they set up to create an innovative service to compete with Facebook? Or did they demonstrate overwhelming passion for an idea that resonated with their many benefactors?

How about Secret London. Tiffany Philippou set up a Facebook group devoted to sharing worthy experiences around the city of London. Within a couple of weeks the group had amassed 195,000 members. Having outgrown its patch on Facebook, Tiffany reached out to the rapidly growing community, asking for volunteers to donate a weekend to help migrate Secret London – the Facebook group – to its own website. 48 hours and £3,000 later http://secretcities.com/london/ went live. When Tiffany queried her volunteers as to what motivated them to sacrifice their time with no obvious reward, they replied it was the opportunity to “be part of something amazing”. (Read Tiffany’s post on TechCrunch Europe).

Will Diaspora outmanoeuvre Facebook? Will Secret London be the next Yelp? The outcome is irrelevant. The lesson that both examples share, however, is invaluable. Their pursuit is powered by an indefatigable passion that is contagious, consuming not just them but as evidenced, investors and their wider communities.

How innovative.

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