“Avoid clichés like the plague,” is thrown about frequently in journalism and media circles as it is at ThinkInk. Like a well-worn record, or maybe I should update my own tired imagery to something like an endlessly re-tweeted tweet, clichés usually succeed in getting their point across, but not without the listener rolling their eyes over yet another hackneyed phrase. Too much use with too little care and the force behind the words is totally lost.
In today’s schizoid re-invent-the-wheel-every-day atmosphere – from wordy ways to jump start the job market, to long-winded debates over the commonsense logic of having the US government meet its debt obligations (yawn) – even the word “innovation” has lost much of its sparkle, according to Jack Springman, author and growth strategies consultant in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post.
His advice to readers: jettison the word “innovation” from their business vocabulary. Doing so, he says, refocuses a company’s attention on delivering quality to its customers, not the manufacture of buzzwords directed inward at corporate higher-ups.
While so deliberately discarding a word sounds a little sophomoric, kind of like having a “no-cursing” change jar to dissuade poor language (which definitely hasn’t worked at our agency – we simply love a good swear), Springman is nevertheless on to something. While doing research for his piece, a search of the term “innovation” on the HBR site came up with 4,700 results. Perform a similar Google search for “innovation” and “business” and you end up with 423,000,000 hits. Clearly the term innovation has, wait for it….. had its day in the sun.
Innovation, like guru, and expert, among countless other words, is a term that should be used like salt in a recipe, sparingly and with extreme care to not scuttle the dish. PR and communications firms should also take note Springman’s advice. I don’t know if innovation should be completely excised from our corporate lexicon, but a timeout is certainly in order.