Innovation is Stupid – Let’s Give it a Brain

Innovation is fascinating to me. Until a few years ago I’d never read nor said the word. Now I feel like my career is constantly observed through its lens.

Here’s the problem – what does that word mean? Does it mean anything? It’s as if the more we talk of it the less we understand.

You have sat in plenty of meetings hearing your leaders address your team about innovation and innovating. Your company doesn’t have any and needs some. Your company doesn’t have enough and needs more.

You all nod your heads in agreement. Who wouldn’t want to be more innovative? What technologist isn’t striving to be an innovator?

Someone Made it Up!

I guess every word was made up at some point. I was totally convinced some business consultant made up the word “innovation” just to bill hours to blue-chip companies.

Pulling down my old dictionary from the bookshelf I flipped through it. Turns out the word has been around for a while.

Innovate (verb) – to introduce a new process or way of doing things. Innovator noun. Innovative adjective. Innovation noun.

Ehrlich, Flexner, Carruth, and Hawkins, Oxford American Dictionary, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 341


Wow, what a lame word.

It’s hard for me to pull anything useful from that. No proscribed way of viewing the world, no new method to follow for improving craft, no inspiration or motivation to generate amazing effort. It’s hardly a guidepost for digital knowledge workers traveling a path, on a journey, searching for solutions.

Suppose you accept that innovation is a high-level outcome a leader is holding you accountable for. How do you make it happen?

Let’s Give Innovation a Brain

I suggest mindfully thinking of innovation this way, “a surprisingly creative invention that’s valuable.” One day I made up this definition so I can fill in the blanks whenever I hear someone say innovation to me.

My dictionary’s definition of the word offers up no opinions on how to think, feel, or behave. When your team is fully psyched to innovate, what do they do? How do they get started? How do they know if they’re doing it right?

Let’s Give Innovation a Body

Here are three hands-on tactics you can do to purposefully pursue innovation:

  1. Learn
  2. Solve interesting problems
  3. Share

I’m convinced this simple virtuous cycle will lead you, and your team, towards innovation. No matter what you call it, you and your team will improve together while delivering value to your customers.

Let’s Give Innovation a Heart

Dedicate yourself to creating inventions that people find valuable. You’re a maker, and you ought to build amazing things. Things that help your consumers pass through their pain points more quickly, and enable them to work better. Being better creating and connecting.

Sometimes the work you do, designing and programming, is so difficult there’s nothing keeping you going but tenacity. I’ve found that even the burden of tough work is more easily done in the service of others. Serve them well!

Let’s Do Something Awesome Today

Accept the challenge to innovate, but take it, and make it your own. It’s just a word. It’s the meaning behind the word that’s important. Ensure it’s something that sharpens your skills and talents.

Redefine innovation until it empowers you to do excellent work that your customers find delightfully beneficial.

Please share this article with your people if they’ll find it a valuable guide on their journey. Let’s do something awesome today!