Innovation is an amazing and important thing, but it’s a tricky word. It’s a squishy word. It’s an uncommitted word—a word that can contain both results and the mere promise of results. It’s a soft word. And soft words are becoming a big problem.
We’re in love with soft words these days. Their softness makes them malleable. And malleable things can be stretched and squeezed and molded to contain whatever kind of effort we want. Consultant, project, approach, partnership, content. Those are all soft words.
There’s an alternative to the softness of innovation, of course. And the alternative is not soft at all. The alternative is: invention.
Innovation leaves room for not producing. It allows you to get away with something. Invention does not.
The question is: Are you producing content, or are you producing work? Are you hedging, or are you committing? Are you clasping a hand, or are you shaking it? Are you squishy or … not squishy?
Instead of a consultant, you could be a fixer. Instead of embarking on a project, you could be starting work on a job. Instead of creating an approach, you could be making a system. Instead of being involved in a partnership, you could be part of an alliance. Instead of producing content, you could be producing work.
A consultant who is innovating a new project that will allow partnerships to produce better content is not necessarily doing anything. There’s only promise in that. There’s no obligation. But the fixer who is inventing a system that will allow two allied companies to do better work? There’s not only promise in that, there’s accountability.
Innovate. Please. The future depends on it. But also: Invent. Because the future depends on results, too. Things we can touch and walk through. Things we can smell and experience. Services that will change our lives.
Innovation merely ensures that we are working on something. Invention ensures that we are creating what we said we were going to create. We need actuality. We need fulfillment. We need results. And our words need to connote obligation as much as promise.