When a word like innovation gets bandied around by media and politicians as the solution it suffers from the same fate as most things left out in the open for too long – the meaning fades, and like all jargon it just becomes a substitute for thought.
We ran a workshop on innovation, and early on we decided to use a different word, because innovation has been co-opted by the start-up and high growth sectors and those who work with them. It’s sometimes hard for owners of non-disruptive businesses to identify with “innovation”.
So we re-framed it: instead of innovation let’s talk about opportunities. We may not be sure what we mean when we say we want our staff to be innovative, but we sure as hell want them to be good at spotting opportunities – whether the opportunities are in the market or internal process improvements.
It’s a good word for another reason: instead of trying to create a culture of innovation, how about developing an opportunity culture? A culture where people are looking for opportunities is also a place where people are being given opportunities for growth.
Innovation doesn’t happen by accident.
We have to invest in our people as well as our ideas. And the best way to think about that is not the lofty concept of innovation, but the sharp fast reality of opportunity.