This week, we will do something that's a bit different from our recent shows. We will be discussing innovation buzzwords, things that are often misused inside and outside of the innovation world.
A buzzword is a term that can be technical or specific to an industry or a job function. It is often used to impress ordinary people, and also often pushing them away. One typical example is synergy, which simply means working together. Another example would be clickbait, which is used as a negative slam for those who create content. Growth hacking is also a buzzword that has gone way overboard. It consists of trying to figure out how to grow an organization. Buzzwords are meant to simplify things for some people, but others often don’t know what they mean. It would be so much easier if we just simplified our language in a way that everyone could understand it.
In the Innovation game, we have our own set of buzzwords that tend to drive people crazy. The number one innovation buzzword in my book is design-thinking. This buzzword has been around for quite some time and is a term hated by actual designers. The original intent was to find a process in which the needs of the user were conceived from the start of the project and all the way through. These days, design-thinking has lost its meaning and fully turned into an innovation buzzword.
The next innovation buzzword I want to discuss is ideation, a term that I use a lot. We at The Innovators Network teach workshops on the process of ideation. What does it mean? Ideation is a process where innovators generate ideas. People outside of the innovation industry can be highly annoyed by it. In reality, it is a made-up word. What is the difference between ideation and brainstorming? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you the difference. The output of both ideation and brainstorming is ideas. In some cases, you can argue that the usage of ideation arose as a way to find new clients.
The next buzzword is one that I also use a lot. The term disruptor describes someone who “rocks the boat,” coming into an existing industry with a unique and different angle. Disruptors may not necessarily be bad people, but they come in and disrupt already established settings. An example of this would be Uber changing the ride-hailing industry. Uber disrupted the industry earning itself the reputation of a disruptor. A
long the lines of disruptor, we have the buzzword innovator — which is someone who introduces a new product, service, or a revolutionary new strategy. The challenge is that everyone and their mother says they are an innovator. People often describe themselves as innovators to be seen as extraordinary. As a result, it’s meaning has become less and less differentiated, making it hard to tell who’s an innovator. Some argue that innovator is not a buzzword, but I say it is based on how much it is thrown around and applied so loosely.
The next innovation buzzword we will discuss is system-thinking. You may have heard of this from one of the big six consulting houses attempting to differentiate themselves. I used to be part of this group, so I understand what these companies are trying to do. They use the term system-thinking in which they look at complicated things as systems rather than a defined and well-understood process. This concept is so vague that most people don’t know what it means. They are trying to make something sound way more complicated than it is.
Next, we have the buzzword pain points, which refer to answering the things that drive customers crazy. Another buzzword used is social innovation, which I have had a good amount of experience with. This term has been used to the point that it is almost meaningless. It is meant to focus on innovating to fix a social problem.
The next buzzword we will discuss is the term thought leader. This term should be the goal of all aspiring innovation leaders but can become cringe-worthy and overused. Do you call yourself a thought leader? Or do others call you a thought leader? You need to be genuine in your thought leadership and humble with it.
Idea management software is a term that appeared in the last ten years. Its sole purpose is to capture and track ideas. The misuse of the term comes when people label their excel spreadsheets as idea management systems, which simply are not. Calling something an idea management system just because it is a popular buzzword is misusing the term. I often find myself using many of the buzzwords we discussed, which end up confusing people. My goal this year is to get rid of the barriers that separate those inside and outside the innovation arena, starting with buzzwords.
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To know more about innovation buzzwords, listen to this week's show: Innovation Buzzwords.