Posts Tagged ‘originality’

2 Simple Words – 1 Expensive Mistake

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

I’ve always believed that words matter. Put it down to my education.When is "innovation" not innovation?

In the northeast of Scotland, in the 1960’s, you were expected to know the precise meaning of the words you used and, therefore, to use them correctly.

Failure was not an option in those days of high academic standards – and corporal punishment.

So, when I see and hear people misuse, overuse or otherwise mutilate words it frustrates me intensely.

I’ve railed in the past about the abuse of the word strategy. People seem to believe that attaching it to a topic automatically elevates the level of that topic’s importance.

There are other similarly abused terms. “Synergy” leaps to mind. “Leverage” is another beauty. A post I noticed yesterday drew my attention to another one – “innovation”.

The post refers to a recent article that highlighted the problem. Here are a few selected tidbits.

•  Hewlett-Packard executives used “innovation” 70 times when they addressed shareholders on a recent conference call.
•  In 2007, 99 companies in the S&P 500 mentioned “innovation” in their third-quarter conference calls. This year the number was 197.
•  The CEO of Kellogg’s referred to their peanut butter Pop Tarts as an “innovation”. (And here I’m thinking product line extension.)
•  Executives from Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. (their burgers look good and their stock price is great) used the words “innovate” or “innovation” 21 times to describe pepper hamburger buns, beer-can cocktails and beer milkshakes. Seriously? How is this not product line extension again?

So what’s the problem?

Well, a product line extension is “different colored diapers. You haven’t changed the functionality, cost or quality. It affects nothing in a significant way.”¹

An innovation, on the other hand, is “something original, new, and important – in whatever field – that breaks in to (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society.”²

A business owner trying to break into a highly competitive market would be wise to know the difference. A product line extension may not offer much, if any, protection from being perceived as “me too”. A product or service, which is truly innovative, will.

Failure to understand the words, and use them correctly, could result in a very expensive mistake.

Time to stop venting and close with an “oldie but goldie”. Say what you mean – and mean what you say.


¹ “Is a Peanut Butter Pop-Tart an Innovation?”, Wall Street Journal, 3 Dec 2013


If you enjoyed this post you’ll also enjoy Is Innovation Part of Your Growth Strategy?

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