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In a recent BusinessWeek article, Bruce Nussbaum made the proclamation that innovation is dead.

“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.”

I agree (previously mentioned in the August 27, 2006 Killer Innovations podcast on the Corporate Corruption Of Innovation).  I don’t agree that the next thing is “transformation”.  Bruce puts forth the rational behind transformation as:

It implies radical transformation of our systems—education, health-care, economic growth, transportation, defense, political representation. It puts the focus on people, designing networks and systems of their wants and needs. It relies on humanizing technology, not imposing technology on humans. It approaches uncertainties with a methodology that creates options for new situations and sorts through them for the best quickly.

In stead, I would put forward that we need to focus on the key component that enables innovation and transformation – ingenuity. What is the difference?  A definition of innovation I like is:

Innovation is the embodiment, combination, or synthesis of knowledge in original, relevant, valued new products, processes, or services.

Ingenuity is the key ingredient to creating innovation.  Ingenuity is the smallest element of innovation … the spark that starts it off.  Innovation is the outcome of applying an individuals ingenuity.

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In my opinion, we are squashing ingenuity out of our students and workers.  We reward conformance in approach and doing well on tests.  Rote memorization is the skill of success rather than creative problem solving.

So, I would put forth that for 2009, we should focus on improving and nurturing individuals inherent ingenuity to create innovations.  We need to find ways to create incentives for individuals to use their ingenuity to solve social and economic issues while also creating products and services that improve our lives.

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What incentives would you create if you were in charge of a business or government?

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