We Have Lost Sight of the Real Meaning of Innovation

Various definitions of the word needlessly complicates what should be a simple mandate and increases pressure in the workplace.

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By David Redmond • Jul 7, 2014 Originally published Jul 7, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As new terms go, innoveracy may be a bit of a mouthful, but it's breaking important ground in today's business landscape.

Horace Dediu, an analyst with Asymco, recently published an essay after realizing there is a universal ignorance around the meaning of innovation. He argues there is a fundamental misunderstanding around the concept, so he is attempting to coin the word innoveracy, which means the inability to understand creativity and the role it plays in society, to both describe and address what he sees as a worsening problem.

Related: Keep Innovation Flowing as Your Startup Grows

Only time will tell whether the word works its way into the popular vernacular, but the issue Dediu raises is important and timely. As a business culture, we have become obsessed with the word innovation. Its meaning, as Dediu describes, is very simple: "something new and uniquely useful." However, as we have come to embrace innovation as a popular topic of discussion, its definition has been stretched to the point where we truly are losing sight of its real meaning.

It's now possible to over-innovate, under-innovate and pre-innovate, among countless other types of innovations. In truth, a spectrum of innovation shouldn't exist. However, now it does, and many people in business, regardless of experience level or role within the organization, are expected to embrace and operate under an increasingly broad array of definitions.

This needlessly complicates what should be a simple mandate and increases pressure in the workplace.

Related: Challenge Assumptions. Don't Be Afraid of Taking a Different Tack.

At Windstream, managing innovation starts with defining it, and there is only one kind. We do not over-innovate, under-innovate, pre-innovate or innovate productively. We only innovate.

If simply defining it sounds easier said than done, it's because it is. Defining it is only one half of the equation. The other is explaining how creating something new and uniquely useful occurs, all within the context of your company's short- and long-term objectives and external market factors that impact your business.

More often than not, people will gravitate toward the external market factors and pursue ideas that address a trend. While that is crucial to sustaining relevancy from a brand and product standpoint, it may lead to a culture of need-to-be-innovators who only pursue a certain type of idea and outcome, which may not be a fit for the company.

It's critically important for senior management to share a vision and be clear in communicating the need to explore ideas at the crossroad, which will not only clear up confusion around innovation and relieve pressure among employees, but also inspire innovation, moving the company forward in a positive direction.

David Redmond

President of Consumer at Windstream Communications

David Redmond is president of consumer at Windstream Communications.

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