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The Backlash Against Innovation And Design.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on February 12, 2007

We’ve all been hearing it—“Innovation is over.” “Design is over the top.” “Everyone’s talking innovation so it’s becoming a meaningless term. Kevin McCullah did a piece for Core77 on the backlash against design. This lays out all the criticisms against design (and they are all over the lot).

Now comes a really insightful piece on the backlash against innovation by Reena Jana that pierces through the blah blah and gets to the heart of the matter. The truth is that the backlash is against the fad of innovation, not the fact of it. The backlash is against CEOs who get up and shroud their companies and their reputations in the rhetoric of innovation while continuing to sell out-of-date, poorly designed products and services. Consumers know this is fake and realize that the talk about innovation is not authentic. Indeed, CEOs who use innovation as a brand fad do deep damage to their brands.

The hard work of building an innovation culture is only just beginning in corporations. It will take a generation, just as the quality movement took a generation to build. Jana’s story, The Backlash Against Innovation, uses Payback—Reaping the Rewards of Innovation by BCGers James Andrew and Harold Sirkin, to get to the hard truths of innovation. And she quotes an old friend of mine, Rosabeth Moss Kanter at Harvard and her piece, The Innovation Trap, in the Harvard Business Review.

Reader Comments

gadi amit

February 12, 2007 11:46 PM

I've been expecting this for a while… so here are two hard points to note:- First, the hype was created (in part) by BW itself, right? And, Second - the hype was on 'design' propped to be an 'innovation' tool. Fact is that Design is just Design and when use as such (i.e. creative, emotional, intuitive, to-the-guts) it is still very effective. The Hype (if there was any) was about the use too much of an 'analytical' process in Design - the 'research', the 'anthropologist', the 'material science' and all the pseudo-science built around the raw creative power of Design. These methodologies are expensive, long-term-focused in a fast-changing markets and seriously impeding the Designer's creativity… yet, unfortunately this fluff looks impressive to many people who cannot understand form or imagery.

David Carlson

February 13, 2007 8:45 AM

I red the article by Kevin McCullah for Core 77 and it is unfortunately very true. Design has turned into one of the most misused words ever. Today the word design is used to describe how to choose ham and lettuce for your sub or which haircut you should get.
On the other hand it is somewhat hard to describe the true meaning of the word design. British Design Council wrote some nice words about design a while ago:

”Design is everywhere - and that's why looking for a definition may not help you grasp what it is.

Design is everywhere. It's what drew you to the last piece of furniture you bought and it's what made online banking possible. It's made London taxi cabs easier to get in and out of and it made Stella McCartney's name. It's driving whole business cultures and making sure environments from hospitals to airports are easier to navigate.”


February 13, 2007 12:58 PM

Reena Jana’s article, “The Innovation Backlash” delivers big RORI, Return on Readers’ Investment. It’s always great to read about good old-fashion business sense in this age of marketeering puffery. What good is innovation or creative design if it doesn’t drive up your company’s value, stock or at the very least pay the bills?

We should all learn from Apple’s I-Pod example mentioned in Jana’s piece. Re-inventing the wheel through innovation is key to cracking the ROI code. Just think, we wouldn’t have run-flat tires if Goodyear left the wheel alone. Why does Toyota keep improving the Camry and Corolla v. introducing model after model while touting innovation, as mentioned in the article?

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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