Never have so few been confused by so many.

In thinking about the word “innovation” while working on a project, we ran across at least three different definitions.  Are we developing something that never existed?  Finding another use for a product-at-parity or commodity?  Or looking to expand the use and care of a service/item?

Then, we turned to our handy databases.  One limited search on the word – the last 30 days and full-text only – yielded nearly 12,000 hits.  Each hit includes different explanations, different parameters, and different processes to innovate.  [That doesn’t even include internal “googling” inside annual reports, on corporate Web sites for “innovative” job titles, and the most recently released business books.]   Everyone, in short, claims innovation, even The New York Times which solicited ideas from its readers mid-last year.

What’s more, there are ongoing, sometimes volatile arguments among those who innovate for a living.  The talk rages between ideating for efficiency sakes, sustaining an already viable item, and/or for disrupting the heck out of an industry [e.g., moving from mainstream computers to PCs]. 

Why the much ado?  Because it seems like, in the word melee, we’re intent upon the process and thing, not the benefits.  It bestows some sort of accolade to say Chief Innovation Officer.  Or kudos that we’ve cornered the market on ideas.

As with all these intellectual wrangles, we giggle.  There is truly no “I” in innovation.