Is Innovation now Status Quo?

Heretical isn’t it? I’m just starting to wonder if some StatusQuo-itis isn’t seeping into innovation discussions.  Seems more people are sounding a bit more prescribed than experimental in their advice and counsel.  I hear more ‘should’, ‘ought’, ‘the’ than ‘could’, ‘can’, and ‘a’; more ‘best practices’ than ‘here’s a way’.

There are some great ways to do spur creativity and innovate, but I don’t think there is ‘the’ way.  One of the very freeing things about innovation is that it’s a continuous experiment; what works today may or may not work tomorrow (if you have kids, you know this well).  It’s good to innovate how you innovate!

I always get concerned when a vocabulary coalesces into jargon* and it seems like that’s happening with innovation.  The era of everything being prescribed, of best practices, are coming to an end.  While there are some absolutes, I believe success, intangible and tangible, will go to those who can experiment, learn, apply and iterate the fastest and most purposefully.

Do you agree? Am I over-reacting? Let me know your thoughts.  And, if you can, just I asked you to watch out for ‘but’ last week, this week, listen for ‘should’, ‘ought’ and ‘the’ - and when you hear it, challenge it, because, Innovation and Status Quo should truly be oxymorons.

*Jargon – Old French jargon “a chattering” (of birds) from mid-14th C “unintelligible talk, gibberish, chattering, jabbering” also from English gargle from which we get gargoyle! 

Be a Heretic!! Innovate

For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated with the word “heretic”.  Perhaps it’s the Devil’s Advocate in me (oh! What a pun!).  Perhaps its because I love being ‘heretical.’  Perhaps its because being heretical is key to innovating.  And this word has been around for millennia!

We usually associate heretic with religion, namely, the Roman Catholic Church: Inquisition, burning people at the stake, etc.  However, the origin is secular; the Greek hairein - “to take” that becamehairetikós - “able to choose” from the verb hairesthai “to choose”.  At the end of 2nd Century A.D., the Latin version haereticus already meant a ‘heretic’ – someone whose beliefs were false or sacrilegious vis-à-vis the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Haereticus became heretique in Middle French andheretik in 13th Century Middle English.  Interestingly, by the late 14th Century (think Chaucer), heretik, in addition to the religious connotation, added back its original secular meaning “anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.”

No, this isn’t a treatise on entomology or religious doctrine.  This is about innovation.  Innovation is about challenging the status quo, accepted doctrines and conventional viewpoints.  Fortunately today, innovators do not get burned at the stake, exiled to islands or made into slaves.  But, in established institutions, they may be shunned, ignored or even fired.

If you want your business and organization to grow and make a difference (and a profit!), you need to encourage your heretics.  You need to give them support, air cover, outlets for exploring ideas, and venues to be heard.  No, this is no longer the Age of Aquarius; it’s the Age of the Heretic!