This week (April 15–21) is World Creativity & Innovation Week — a seven day celebration of the new, the different and the life-changing. But what exactly do creativity and innovation mean in this day and age?
The dictionary defines‘innovation’ as “the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods”. And that’s a good place to start. But it says nothing of the huge surge in popularity of innovation over the past decade. Innovation is now the modern day mantra and life blood of brands and business leaders alike. “Move fast and break things,” Mark Zuckerberg tells us. “Stay hungry, stay foolish,” advised Steve Jobs. Walt Disney touched on the subject far earlier even than those Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Today’s brands, and even whole countries, are judged by how innovative they are, with rankings such as the International Innovation Index, Innovations Indikator, Bloomberg Innovation Ranking, and Fast Companies Most Innovative Companies all driving the need to act faster.
In fact, so positive has our culture’s association with innovation become, so emphatic is the word and what it represents, it’s hard to believe that the term ‘Innovator’ was once branded as an insult.
Coming from the Latin ‘innovatus’ meaning ‘to renew or restore’, the first recorded use of the word innovation — in English at least — occurred in the 1590s. While the word was progressive, the times were not; ‘novation’implied newness which was anathema to the strict religious dogma of Europe at the time. Being an ‘innovator’ could quite easily land you in jail.
As with many things, that changed in the 19th Century with the industrial revolution. Revolution itself is a stirring word, implying development and progress, and this golden age for science and industry placed invention on a pedestal. Innovation and invention gained positive connotations of a better future. Over time, invention has come to speak of that moment of pure creativity; whereas innovation has become about the ability to bring the new and life-improving to market..
Use of the word innovation has boomed since the 1950s, so you’d think that we are experiencing a peak period for innovation. In reality, the number of new inventions being created is declining — we just talk about them more. You could argue that we’re in the midst of a golden age for making innovations stick; increased social acceptance and the internet are responsible for the ease at which an innovation can scale. You only need look at the lightening growth of companies like Uber and AirBnB to see that in action.
Innovation is nobody’s job and everyone’s business, seems to be the common belief these days among the marketers.
What does innovation mean to you and your industry? Has that definition changed over the years? And what’s the next great buzzword? Will ‘sustainability’, ‘disruption’ or ‘design’ be the ‘innovation’ of tomorrow?
“Creativity is contagious — pass it on.” — Albert Einstein
Adapted from an Article in medium.com
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