What’s Not to Like about Innovation?

| November 8, 2014

Like creativity, innovation is a diffuse concept that requires a significant amount of rehabilitation to be used in an effective, precise way. The two concepts are indeed often intertwined. But I would want to argue that “innovation” is analogous to corporate personhood—and deserving of the same liberal ire.

OK, let me unpack this a bit. First, it appears as if organizations more often (are said to) seek innovation whereas individuals seek creativity. To wit: “innovation will lead us to the next big product.” Creativity seems to align better with masterpieces and experiments.

Innovation is “new;” creativity is “original.”

Both these statements drive me a bit bonkers (insofar as they are often unsubstantiated) , but can of course be meaningful and profound. But are these perhaps two sides of the same coin? Or should they be understood entirely differently?

Shouldn’t they be viewed analogously to persons and corporate persons —one aspirational, and the other antagonistic to the aspiration?

Yet at every turn both concepts will resist definition. Is innovation about technological change? Well, not exactly. Is creativity about imagination? Well, again, not exactly. An essay would have to focus on a broad-yet-common conceptualization of each term, and locate historical uses that exemplified their similarities and contrasts.

Could pitting them against each other be instrumental in expressing value for humanity over technology-fo-technologies-sake? Maybe!

It seems worth trying.