Better Than New


What Innovation Means to Most People by morepete
May 21, 2007, 6:29 am
Filed under: Innovation Humor

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By Pete Mortensen

Maker Faire was in San Mateo over the weekend, and I had a fantastic time. I uses salad tongs to control a PC game, I bought a plastigami jumping frog, made a foam print of a drawing of said plastigami frog, rode home-made bicycles built out of scrap and even answered a phone call from a plant.

And then I saw the sign above, and I had to laugh. My! A two-hour class in innovation! Sounds great! Will glitter and pipe cleaners be provided? And it’s perfectly timed, right between creativity and prototyping!

Kidding aside, I think this display is oddly indicative of the cultural barriers and misconceptions all of us in this field have to overcome every time we use the word innovation. People think innovation is wacky creativity or novel solutions to well-understood problems. It’s putting on a silly hat and thinking outside the box. And in reality, innovation encompasses a lot more: Operational excellence, the discovery of new questions to answer, even slight improvements to existing products and services.

Innovations are any creations based on new knowledge with a social or economic benefit. And it’s serious business. It’s really hard, and it takes incredible teams to do it on even a somewhat consistent basis. You’re not going to learn it in a two-hour class in the middle of a craft and tinkering fair.

Here’s the crux of the problem. The services and capabilities offered by the best innovation consultancies have almost nothing in common with the creativity exercises and “So You Want to Be an Inventor?” activities offered by folks like Think Solve Do, Inc., the company that was running the innovation workshop. And yet the messages of creativity consultants and people in Jump’s peer set end up sounding exactly the same. It’s a problem that doesn’t have a solution yet, but it’s always fun to be reminded of the state of the discourse at random.

Some more pictures of the astounding innovation seminar follow.

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