Is Innovation Passé?

June 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm Leave a comment

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggested that the word innovation is past its prime and is in danger of become a cliché. The author suggests that companies are throwing the term around, but aren’t creating any monumental change. In terms of overuse, a search of reports shows companies mentioned some form of the word “innovation” 33,528 times last year, which was a 64% increase over the past five years. As well, more than 250 books with “innovation” in the title have been published in the last three months alone. Not surprisinlgy, Bill Taylor recently blogged on the Harvard Business Review “Please, can we all just stop innovating?” 

So, does this mean the end of innovation and development for industry? According to Phil Donne, President of Campbell’s Canada, there are many legitimate reasons for a food company to continuously innovate . He was speaking at the recent Canadian Institute of Food Science & Technology conference, which is attended by folks from industry, research, academia and government. What Phil Donne defined as innovation is “a new way, done first”.  This is echoed by Bill Taylor, who provides some excellent examples of truly innovative businesses, but suggests what they did was really a new way of doing business. Some examples he cites are “creating and building a great customer service brand” for Zappos, or “creating a whole new category of entertainment” for Cirque de Soleil.  A new way, done first describes innovation and captures the heart of businesses undertaking creative approaches to develop better products or services.  Along these lines, Campbell’s Nourish soup is also a significant achievement, as a new, done first  “meal in a can” that requires no heat or water to consume. It’s an innovative nutrient dense solution for the world’s hunger and disaster relief needs.

Perhaps we need a better descriptor for the ongoing efforts of businesses which continuously provide safe food to Canadians, while being mindful of trends for health, new flavours and  exotic foods, sustainability, and better ways to prepare wholesome meals. The CIFST conference highlighted many of these new technologies and products, including EnWave’s vacuum drying which results in higher quality dried foods, Simply Fresh’s Meal kits for Fish, to increase fresh fish consumption, Cigis’ work on  incorporating pulse flours into “healthier for you” foods,  and the HealthCheck program that requires manufacturers to reduce sodium in products.  These are examples of doing something new, first. Innovation can’t go away, but as Bill Taylor asks, can we stop trying to innovate and just do something new? and I  would respectfully add, “first”.

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Entry filed under: Innovation News.

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