“Innovation” died in 2008, killed off by overuse, misuse, narrowness, incrementalism and failure to evolve. It was done in by CEOs, consultants, marketeers, advertisers and business journalists who degraded and devalued the idea by conflating it with change, technology, design, globalization, trendiness, and anything “new.” It was done it by an obsession with measurement, metrics and math and a demand for predictability in an unpredictable world. The concept was also done in, strangely enough, by a male-dominated economic leadership that rejected the extraordinary progress in “uncertainty planning and strategy” being done at key schools of design that could have given new life to “innovation. To them, “design” is something their wives do with curtains, not a methodology or philosophy to deal with life in constant beta—life in 2009.
In the end, “Innovation” proved to be weak as both a tactic and strategy in the face of economic and social turmoil. It couldn’t get us safely through the troubles of 08 (indeed, financial innovation was to large degree responsible for the economic trainwreck). Most importantly, “innovation” cannot guide us into an uncertain and tumultuous future. It is too narrow to generate radical alternative options and build risk-taking frontier skills needed to remake and restructure our lives, our economies and our countries.