Overuse of the Word Innovation

Innovation.  Everyone is talking about it.  Everyone seems to know they need to innovate by using one of the three types of innovation.  And everyone seems to try to sell their innovation as a marketing pitch. 

But the word “innovation" has become an over used buzz word.  Even the president of the United States talked about small business innovation in one of his State of the Union addresses.  

The problem is that the true meaning of the word has been lost because of the overuse of the word innovation.

The Word Means Nothing

For example, my family just had our photo taken at Portrait Innovations.  We scheduled our appointment, had our session, and picked out our favorite poses.  The photographer was nice and used a standard name-brand camera.  We were even sold an "up-sell” package.  Our experience was good and we were happy with both the product and the service.

But there was absolutely nothing innovative about this company.

We went through the exact same process as we have always experienced when getting our photos done at the competitors of Portrait Innovations.  Maybe I missed, but I didn’t see anything innovative about this company.

So why in the world do they consider themselves innovative enough to include word innovation in the title of their company?

The Real Definition of Innovation

Before we go any further, let’s look at the definition of innovation as described by Merriam-Webster:

  • A new idea, device, or method; or,
  • the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods.

Overusing The Word Innovation

During the recent recession, a local billboard company starting running their own ads on billboards they were trying to sell ads for.  In starting their new campaign, they advertised using just one word: Innovative.

But again, this company wasn’t innovative.  At least, I didn’t see it.  

To me, billboards aren’t a new idea, device or method and I didn’t see the company  introducing a new methods or ideas in the campaigns of clients.

In fact, I had recently heard about a media company in Tennesee that was innovative.  To innovate their industry, they actually purchased several media businesses such as a billboard company, radio station, and even a web design company. 

The innovative method they introduced was an advertising “package” where local clients were able to have access to several different advertising channels.   This was a new method because, previously, a client would have had to seek out three or four specialized companies at premium prices to advertise in these multiple channels.

But my local company wasn’t doing this.  All they were doing was telling prospects that they can help them innovate.

The Demand For Innovation

The reason companies like Portrait Innovations or the local billboard company have been using the word innovation in their marketing strategies is that there is a huge demand for innovation.

It seems that every company realizes the importance of innovation.

Innovation is something that can provide a great competitive advantage.  Having a new idea, device, or method can truly set a business apart from the competition.

But actually being innovative is easier said than done.

For this reason, businesses are actually searching for ways to be innovative.  They are looking for businesses to partner with who can help provide that competitive advantage.

And since there is a demand for innovation, many companies are doing their best to fill this demand.

The Problem with Overusing Words

When a word becomes a “buzz” - a word that is used excessively - it creates a problem.  The word looses its true meaning.

I was recently having lunch with a friend at a fast food restaurant.  We had to push back our meeting and it was now mid-afternoon.  We were both starving.

When we finally got to our tables and prepared our food, my starving friend exclaimed in excitement for the meal at hand: “Awesome!”  I agreed.

But there really wasn’t anything “awesome” about this fast-food meal.  By definition, awesome means an “expressive of awe” or “terrific, extraordinary."

And my friend wasn’t “starving” - a word that means “to suffer or die from lack of food or extreme hunger."

But I knew exactly what my friend meant because these two words have become overused in our modern vocabulary.

The problem with overusing these words, however, is that the true meaning of the word has been lost.  Each word has essentially been watered-down.

And this is exactly what has happened because of the overuse of the word innovation - the word has lost its true meaning.

The Future of Innovation

As businesses continue to look for a competitive advantage in the marketplace, it will be essential for them to not settle for a watered-down version of innovation.

Businesses that truly innovate - in accordance with the original meaning of the word - will be able to find a competitive advantage and get ahead of the competition.

A Question For You

When has your business settled for a watered-down version of innovation?