Well, Bruce Nussbaum of BusinessWeek appears to be in the process of rather firmly lodging his foot in his mouth. In two recent posts on NussbaumOnDesign, Bruce has declared that innovation is a notion that has been hyped to death and that the new emphasis should be on transformation. In ‘"Innovation" is Dead. Herald The Birth of "Transformation" as The Key Concept for 2009’, Bruce makes a case for why the concept of innovation is dead and presents the notion that transformation is more meaningful in the current climate. He further expounds on the topic of transformation in ‘The Transformation Conversation: Is "Transformation" a Better Concept Than "Innovation" to Guide us Forward?’
With all due respect to Bruce, these arguments are a steaming pile of thinly considered pontification.
It can certainly be said that many terms come into the limelight and become the center of popular dialogue from time to time. While most of these topics come and then fade into obscurity, innovation is one topic that has a history of becoming a focal point of conversation on a regular basis. This is because innovation is all about the creation and delivery of value, and as such innovation is a timely basic theme for business.
It is for this reason that contrary to Bruce’s pronouncements, companies that are serious about creating new value, monetizing new opportunities, and thriving in times of great challenge and shifting climates are redoubling their focus on their innovation agenda. Transformation is a term that can be used to describe some possible outcomes of innovation. However, it is too narrow to capture the full scope of the possibilities available to agile companies.
Sure, companies that like to make noise publicly about the great things they are doing, but that really just want to feel good about not doing anything are always looking for a new buzz word to toss around. But organizations that are serious about being the leaders in their spaces are not concerned with trying to find new ways to talk the talk. These leading companies are always focused on walking the walk of value creation, of continuous redefinition of the rules of the game, of high-performance innovation.
As to the laggard companies, they should make 2009 the year they stop talking about innovation and start operationalizing it.