Nussbaum Rants on the death of “Innovation”

I’m peeking my head up from the last few bits of holiday time to point out that this is a great rant from Bruce Nussbaum. The first paragraph is terrific enough that I have to quote it in full.

“Innovation” died in 2008, killed off by overuse, misuse, narrowness, incrementalism and failure to evolve. It was done in by CEOs, consultants, marketeers, advertisers and business journalists who degraded and devalued the idea by conflating it with change, technology, design, globalization, trendiness, and anything “new.” It was done it by an obsession with measurement, metrics and math and a demand for predictability in an unpredictable world. The concept was also done in, strangely enough, by a male-dominated economic leadership that rejected the extraordinary progress in “uncertainty planning and strategy” being done at key schools of design that could have given new life to “innovation. To them, “design” is something their wives do with curtains, not a methodology or philosophy to deal with life in constant beta—life in 2009.

That said, I’m not sure I’m that thrilled with “Transformation” either. Because the same philistines who bastardized “innovation” and “design” will turn “Transformation” into something just as awful. Like some tassel-loafered Pygmalion sculpting a sad excuse for a girlfriend out of pie charts and paperclips.

“Transformation” sounds way too much like the self-help books these people (mostly guys) read when they want to improve their memory, pectoral muscles or golf swings.

I’m convinced there will always be a minority who “get it.” And a majority who take whatever “it” is and turn it into a hollow, dry husk of what “it” could be.

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  • http://www.portigal.com/blog Steve Portigal

    “I’m convinced there will always be a minority who “get it.” And a majority who take whatever “it” is and turn it into a hollow, dry husk of what “it” could be.”

    Damn. Brilliant, tragic, true.

  • http://www.indirectmanipulation.com Kel Smith

    Well – I don’t know if I agree or not, but I’m definitely using the term “tassel-loafered Pygmalion” in a conversation when the first opportunity presents itself.

  • http://jodyferry.com Jody

    Fuck yea!

  • http://www.torchpartnership.com Michael Dila

    Gotta say, Andrew, with a line such as: “Like some tassel-loafered Pygmalion sculpting a sad excuse for a girlfriend out of pie charts and paperclips.” you oughtta be writing for a living.

    Gotta agree with Portigal, we gotta stop worrying about the folks who like to make fetishes of words, they’ve been with us since the Bible at least and we’ll suffer their kind for quite a while yet, I imagine.

    I remain, however, with those who think our words matter. We need to make sure they become part of a vital and dynamic discourse rather than use them as mere incantations.

  • http://livlab.com/thinkia Livia Labate

    “Like some tassel-loafered Pygmalion sculpting a sad excuse for a girlfriend out of pie charts and paperclips.”

    Oh my dear ChunkyMonkey friend, you are quite unique!

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  • http://www.graphpaper.com Christopher Fahey

    Hey Andrew,

    Ha, you and I had the same thoughts (http://tinyurl.com/874k54) — that Nussbaum’s target audience seems to be people desperately lacking design skills. Or perhaps, as you and I both suggest, lacking even basic design aptitude. Design Thinking, Innovation, Transformation — these are all ways to compensate for _simply not being very good at design_. It’s not about going from good to great, it’s about escaping failure.

  • http://www.scenario2.com Nick Trendov

    …there will always be a minority who “get it.” is wildly optimistic based on my experience.

    However I do think that the ‘rant’ mixes some very significant metaphores.

    Measurement is indeed the driver of innovation if you consider that the innovator’s perspective.

    Measurement is poison when deployed by accountants who typically don’t understand how to count, or executives who don’t understand why to count.

    Using numbers to justify actions is also a read herring. There is always a story first and the numbers are rallied as a means to justify the end.

    Is ‘good’ design is equivalent to innovation?
    Not in my view as good design is generally incremental and is motivated by PROCESS innovation.

    Consider the ‘innovators’ at IDEO who have a video on designing a ‘new’ shopping cart. Basically they stripped the cart of all metal to get to a slick frame and added attachments so shoppers can load multiple hand held plastic baskets on the cart. This they justify because ‘field observations’ showed that ‘superior’ shoppers leave the cart in one spot and ‘forage’–this is the story behind all the numbers that justied paying IDEO to ‘innovate’.

    PLEASE pick a perspective when you rant.

    There is plenty of innovation daily and it happens with dull products when people have to do more with them in less time.

    This is illustrated by a simple story–customers know far more about any product that the manufacturer because they MUST innovate.

    The manufacturer must make a ‘profit’.

    If you want innovation look to customers but keep in mind profits preclude innovation.

    Cheers,
    Nick
    http://www.scenario2.com