I was rereading a 2012 innovation report by Accenture and I was struck by the language of the recommendations.

The writers of the report found:

– Among 500 respondents (i.e. leaders in large organisations) 93% of them believe innovation is important to their long-term success

– 70% place it among their top-five priorities.

– Some 51% of executives report that funding for innovation has increased,

– 60% now have a head of innovation (up from 54% in 2009) and 87% measure innovation (up from 64% in 2009).

But there is a problem — according to the research:

Less than one out of five respondents (18%) believe their own innovation strategy is delivering a competitive advantage.

The writers then discuss why there is such a big gap between the expectations and actual results of innovation.

One of their observations is that leaders are becoming more conservative and following a more incremental strategy.

Perhaps the consultants are correct.

But notice the language:

On the one hand you have expressions like — disruption, next big thing, step-change and transformative.

On the other hand you have line extensions, incremental, low value, conservative and renovations.

Notice the difference?

The smaller type innovation is loaded with such negative associations and the bigger innovation fuelled by positive features.

Equally I could also write that the same large scale innovation is time-consuming, risky, expensive etc.

Even the title of the report uses language such as overcoming the costs and perils of low risk innovation.

Surely it is time we moved to a different and more positive language of innovation.

This is why I suggest a new type of language around innovation.

Small wins innovation and Big Wins innovation.

– This language suggests that both are worthwhile.

– Both are important and complement one another.

– They are positive, optimistic and suggest progress.

– And concrete achievement — even if the innovation does not work there can be many key learnings for example or movement towards a goals which can be considered a win.

Innovation in any shape or form is difficult.

It requires effort, persistence and imagination.

I wonder if the consultants themselves who are so disparaging about small scale innovation have actually done any innovation or have just written about it!

Let’s all be more innovative about the language of innovation.

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