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Innovating our way to oblivion

Out-of-control buzzwords are like locusts: you can swat handfuls of them down with a bat, but more will come to take their place.
I’ve been swatting away for ages in this blog at all things Conceptual, Cultural, Clustered and (especially) Creative. But now we’re suffering a massive counter-attack by the word Innovation – 137 million uses of which are known to Google alone.
A good proportion of these mentions probably belong to the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) in the UK. Nesta’s mission is to “make innovation flourish,” and one way it does this is by using the world innovation in every second or third sentence of the emails it sends me.
Now Nesta is staffed by smart and well-connected people, and most of my clients think innovation is the very elixir of life itself – so I probably shouldn’t say this. But I have to, because it’s important:
INNOVATION IS NOT GOOD IN ITSELF – IN FACT, MORE INNOVATION DOES HARM, THAN DOES GOOD.
My evidence for this statement is contained in a breathless announcement from Mintel, the market research company, that a “Record-Breaking Number of New Products Flood Global CPG Shelves” and that (the numbers are for 2006) “close to 182,000 new products were introduced globally, with key booming areas focusing on mind, body, and general good health”.
Well over half of these of these innovations – 105,000, to be precise – were food and drink products. This flood of innovations enable us to profit from such trends as “brainpower foods, age-defying treatments, increases in portion control, and “just for you” customised products”.
Now I may have misunderstood something here, but surely the Mintel numbers mean that more than half the innovations that reach the market all over the world – 300 innovations, every single day of the year – decrease the resource efficiency and hence sustainability of global food systems?
Good, so that’s Innovation dealt with. Bring on the next killer word!

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2 Comments

  1. Posted June 23, 2008 at 00:08 | Permalink

    How about…”empowerment”!

  2. Posted July 5, 2008 at 23:05 | Permalink

    Interesting figures John – you definitely have a valid point… more products, more use of world resources, more waste….
    But I like social design very much, I love creative thought when it is used to develop social cohesion and awareness (such as the Urban Farming project – one of my very favourite projects – ever!) or products that improve the lives of those living in poverty or lack education (such as one laptop per child, or water cleansing gismos). So perhaps the annoyance with innovation isn’t some much novel ideas, but how they are used and where the thought power is directed?

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