The Two Sides of Innovation

Posted by: in Corporate and Strategy, executive insights, gary grates, Thought Leadership on June 6, 2012

So what is truly innovative?

An excellent article in the May 23 WSJ — You Call That Innovation? — reported on how the word itself has lost its meaning because of overuse and hyperbole.  According to the article, the word “innovation” was mentioned some “33,528 times last year” by companies according to a search of annual and quarterly reports filed with the SEC.

As communicators, we are often told by organizations that they are “innovative” and that “innovation” is a differentiator for them.  As such, we are tasked with promoting this by using the word “Innovation” in all our messaging.

Much like “Quality” in the 80s and “Change” in the 90s, “Innovation” and “Strategy” are today’s meaningless terms in business language.

So what can leaders and communicators do?

Actually a few things.  First, eliminate the term from the company narrative. Second, look at what is trly innovative outside of your industry and learn from it; and Third, determine what customers and employees define as innovative and then seek to fulfill those things so they are mouthing the term not you.

The latter point is actually taking a page out of Apple.  The company does things seen as innovative making the audience define the term, which is how it should be!

Speaking of learning from others, let’s look at the Canadian grocery store chain, Loblaws, for inspiration.   In 2006, Loblaws entered into a relationship with fashiion guru Joe Mimran of Club Monaco fame to design a clothing line for its stores.

Loblaws remember is a grocery store chain not a fashion or designer store.   The result was called – Joe Fresh – a line of afforable edgy basics in glorious colors, which actually become a strong driver of revenue for the grocery chain during the recession.

Joe Fresh has grown from its grocery store incubator and now boasts 17 stand-alone salons including New York and Toronto and is now the fourth largest clothing retailer in Canada!

Now that’s innovative!

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