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Innovation Isn’t Porn, It’s A Relationship

Powerful relationships take commitment and the right kind of effort.

When innovation is compared to anything, it illustrates the fundamental difficulty we have in the representation of abstract concepts. InformationWeek columnist Coverlet Meshing recently described innovation as “executive porn,” and at one level that metaphor works nicely.

Yes, innovation is overused, and particularly in the technology sector it is often a cheap pickup line. And I admit that there are the equivalent of whores and sexual surrogates in the innovation management field.

Innovation also fits the “I know it when I see it” category like porn. When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart used that phrase as his threshold for obscenity, his intent was on par with today’s struggle to define innovation and find a repeatable way to produce it. After that, though, the innovation-is-porn metaphor breaks down, and Meshing starts to take on the air of a jilted lover who can spare no mercy for his lost object of desire.

[ Why does innovation fail? Read about the Past Vs. Future Problem. ]

For the rest of us who know that porn and metaphor can serve a purpose and at the same time obstruct truth, let’s think more flexibly about innovation. Meshing’s column lambasts Harvard Business Review, but many of the models that HBR and academia distill are very useful in aiding our thinking. Of course, expecting the model to solve all our problems is as disturbing as a woman trying to look like a Barbie doll.

So if you want a metaphor, compare innovation to a relationship instead of porn.

Start with the idea that innovation is an everyday business activity. You have to work at it and pay attention to how it is doing. If you take that for granted and get caught up in the reliable tasks of the day, soon you may find it is no longer there to support you in times of need.

It is our experience that companies that are in those dire straights with their relationship with innovation need the rigor and discipline of process to rebuild it. Those companies that aren’t having trouble with their innovation relationship may see such a process as pedantic.

Read the rest of Doug Stone’s article from InformationWeek.com

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