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Is Innovation the Most Abused Word In Business? 287

Posted by samzenpus
from the give-it-a-name dept.
dcblogs writes "Most of what is called innovation today is mere distraction, according to a paper by economist Robert Gordon, written for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Real innovations involve things like the combustion engine or air conditioning, not the smartphone. The paper includes thought experiments to help you gain more respect for genuine innovations such as indoor plumbing. The Financial Times has posted the complete 25-page paper.(pdf)"
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Is Innovation the Most Abused Word In Business?

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  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @04:39AM (#41176385)

    An innovation can be as small as a neat new way of handling some user interaction which nobody has done before or a heuristic which solves a hard problem but at the same time people from buisness or management backgrounds or courses do set an insanely low bar for what they consider "innovation".

    If you were to believe buisness grads then "innovation" includes their "ideas" along the lines of "a website like *only better*" or "that thing which everyone is already doing but which I think is my neat new idea"

    • by Stormthirst (66538) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @04:47AM (#41176401)

      I agree - there's a difference between innovation and incremental improvements.

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:19AM (#41176513) Journal

        Whether or not the word "innovation" has become the most abused word in the business context, that remains to be seen
         
        On the other hand, "innovation" itself has been abused by the patent trolls
         
        Innovators and inventors nowadays often find themselves in between a rock and a very hard place
         
        On one hand, they can get sued by patent trolls if they put their innovation to good use
         
        On the other hand, many of the innovators' livelihood depends on their ability to invent, to innovate, to create new things
         

        • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:38AM (#41176573) Journal

          The "innovation" word has certainly been abused in business contexts. However, to assert that it is the most abused word is less clear. After all, competition for that accolade (in a manner of speaking) is fairly stiff. There are many words from the MBA lexicon with even greater claim, such as leverage, incentivize, and similar linguistic horrors.

          • You left out the use of 'transition' as a verb.

          • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @07:12AM (#41176941)

            I find it funny, I got an MBA degree, there was a strong effort in making sure we don't use buzz words, but to actually understand what they mean, then not to use them.

            There are a lot of Managers and Upper Managers without MBA's those are the ones who tend to be the biggest offenders. They will hear MBA's use the terms in correct context then reuse them out of context.

            For Example Synergy Is an aspect when people working in a team or a group produce more then the sum of each person. The Non-MBA takes this as meaning working well in a team, or just having a lot of energy and excitement about the work they do. Synergy is often not achieved even with groups and teams that work well with a lot of energy. Because as you put more people on a team the natural aspect is for each member is to work a little less hard then if they would do it themselves. MBA's may talk about Synergy as a goal, the other guys who don't know what it means and are too timid to ask, will interpret it incorrectly and reuse it in the wrong way. So in the modern MBA class we are told to avoid using these new terms that we learn because the non-MBA abuse them and degrade their meeting.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              yep.. MBAs *never* misuse these terms.

              lolz... :P

              If you're one of the good ones, good for you.

            • by eulernet (1132389) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @07:44AM (#41177123)

              For Example Synergy Is an aspect when people working in a team or a group produce more then the sum of each person.

              Sorry to disappoint you, but a group cannot produce more than the sum of each person.
              This is called Ringelmann effect:
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringelmann_effect [wikipedia.org]
              it has been measured in 1914, by measuring the amount of effort of groups of different sizes.
              When you put 8 persons together, you get the amount of effort only 4 can produce.
              People unconsciously reduce their effort when they work in a team.

              What you can do is try to increase intrinsic motivation, so that not too much energy is lost in the group.
              Also, choose the best members for your team.

              • Sorry to disappoint you, but a group cannot produce more than the sum of each person.

                Not sure I agree with that. Having a team means you can take advantage of things like specialization of labor. So even if each individual team member is not working as hard, the overall output can still be increased.

                There's a reason that assembly lines are much more efficient than having each individual build each unit from start to finish

                • by eulernet (1132389) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @08:29AM (#41177529)

                  There's a reason that assembly lines are much more efficient than having each individual build each unit from start to finish

                  This is indiividual work !
                  You split the task into tiny parts, so that people will become specialized in solving their little task.
                  The more separate the tasks, the more efficient your process can be.
                  But you don't produce more than the sum of individuals.

              • by Shazback (1842686) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @08:22AM (#41177437)
                The Ringelmann effect shows how in certain structures and certain tasks, group efficiency is decreased. However, Köhler showed that in other structures for other tasks (conjunctive tasks), the group can incentivize weaker members to consistently perform better than when they are alone. As long as the Köhler discrepancy is low, the task is conjunctive and the group has a manner to view the contribution of individual members, then yes, a group -can- produce more than the sum of each person (i.e. the performance if each member performed the task alone, without any information about others performing the task at the same time or location).

                It is also worth noting that both the Ringelmann and Köhler effects were described with regards to purely physical tasks, over 75 years ago. Their relevance in more complex and more intellectual tasks is highly disputed, in particular ones where solutions and methods to achieve solutions are non-obvious or novel. For instance, solving simple mazes exhibits social loafing (decreased performance relative to individuals), but as the maze's complexity increases, social loafing is eliminated, and group performance increases as they grow larger! This is of course a very "basic" cognitive task, but already illustrates that groups -do- out-perform individuals in correct conditions.

                Yes, lots of MBAs or MBA-lights don't understand what they're talking about, but some people are actually interested in the concepts that are brought to light during such courses and go read about them, rather than just relying on the buzz-words and five minute discussion before the next subject arises.
                • Yes, lots of MBAs or MBA-lights don't understand what they're talking about, but some people are actually interested in the concepts that are brought to light during such courses and go read about them, rather than just relying on the buzz-words and five minute discussion before the next subject arises.

                  In my experience, that seems to be the majority of MBA's. I suppose it's a bit of a slanted view. Since my employer will pay for tuition up front there are a lot of engineers who went ahead and got an MBA from University of Phoenix or similar just because they could do it for free in their spare time without a ton of effort.

                • by eulernet (1132389)

                  Köhler's effect doesn't apply to intellectual tasks, contrary to Ringelmann's.
                  In fact Köhler's effect depends on the motivation of the individual to do his best. He may try to be as good as the best performers, but he may also stop all efforts if the task seems too difficult.

                  According to Demming, the power of a group is equal of the sum of every individual plus the sum of their interactions.
                  In most groups, their interactions are negative, thus reducing the power of the group.
                  And I witnessed some g

              • by stewbacca (1033764) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @09:55AM (#41178409)

                You made the same mistake MBA guy cited in his post. Synergy is not about motivation, it's about the whole is better than the parts. A group indeed can be better than the individual, if synergy is present, whereas each member of the group contributes a particular piece of expertise or skill that the others don't have. I know the stereo-typical slashdot developer type thinks they are the best at everything, but part of being good is knowing what you don't know and depending on others for that part.

                Of course just slapping a bunch of diversely skilled people together won't automatically ensure synergy.

              • by hey! (33014) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @10:31AM (#41178871) Homepage Journal

                No,the GP's talking about something different than having a bunch of fungible people pull on a rope.

                Suppose some designers want a device to be sleek and lightweight. The engineers naturally choose plastic, but the designers are displeased -- the prototype feels cheap and flimsy. This is nonsense to the engineers: the numbers say the design is rugged and light, and numbers don't lie. They think the designers want the impossible: for the product to be light and heavy at the same time.

                The reason "synergy" hasn't happened is that people have split into cliques of like-minded people, working at cross purposes to the other group and reinforcing conformity of thinking in their own. If they worked together they'd realize that "feels solid in the hand" is something distinct from "rugged", then produce a device that is lighter than the competition but slightly heavier than it looks.

                This is "synergy" in the sense the GP is using it. More commonly, "synergy" means to have two or more complementary business areas. This is a real phenomenon which is easier to achieve and natural in small businesses where people tend to have a clearer view of the big picture -- at least until the dis-economies of scale force them to focus on one business area. With a larger businesses it takes planning.

                The problem is that "synergy" scenarios are often poorly thought out. I worked for a small software developer that sold hardware as well, so we could be a "one stop shop" for our clients. Other aspects of the "one stop shop" worked well: training services led to custom software projects which led to products which led to more training. The problem with hardware was that it's a commodity. We had to sell a high precision GPS handhelds at market prices, but margins were small. Our customer base didn't produce enough volume to have specialists, so hardware was a big, unprofitable distraction.

                The problem *isn't* that we have too many buzzwords, it's that we don't have enough critical thinking. "Synergy" is a valid concept, but it takes more than a happy scenario and a label to slap on it to make that scenario happen.

              • by jheath314 (916607)

                Sorry to disappoint you, but a group cannot produce more than the sum of each person.

                It depends how you define the "sum", but it is very clear that some ways of organizing labor result in far more productivity than what you would get if each person on the team simply worked on their own. Adam Smith had a very memorable description of a pin factory in his book The Wealth of Nations:

                "One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it o

          • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @08:10AM (#41177339) Homepage

            I'm going to make the case for putting "incentivize" near or at the top, because it's quite common, and used to obfuscate rather than enlighten.

            For instance, when a politician talks about incentivizing investment, what he really means is that he wants to lower the capital gains tax. When a marketing executive says he wants to incentivize customer engagement, he means something along the lines of increasing sales with a "win a free iPod" contest or something similar. When somebody talks about incentivizing employees, they're talking about making coworkers compete each other for a limited number of perks (or remaining head count after a layoff) in the hopes that all employees work harder. And when a loan shark talks about incentivizing borrowers, he means breaking kneecaps.

          • The "innovation" word has certainly been abused in business contexts. However, to assert that it is the most abused word is less clear. After all, competition for that accolade (in a manner of speaking) is fairly stiff. There are many words from the MBA lexicon with even greater claim, such as leverage, incentivize, and similar linguistic horrors.

            I would have gone for the word issue.

      • by Toam (1134401)
        That's right. I would say that the "smartphone" is an innovation. The iPhone 4 is not.
    • by Virtucon (127420) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:04AM (#41176453)

      you're also forgetting that MBA's and Financial People use "Innovation" all the time to take funds from people and transform them into vapor.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:12AM (#41176487) Homepage

      Rounded corners FTW!

    • An innovation can be as small as a neat new way of handling some user interaction which nobody has done before or a heuristic which solves a hard problem but at the same time people from buisness or management backgrounds or courses do set an insanely low bar for what they consider "innovation".

      If you were to believe buisness grads then "innovation" includes their "ideas" along the lines of "a website like *only better*" or "that thing which everyone is already doing but which I think is my neat new idea"

      Or a pda with rounded corners, even if physically identical devices were shown in movies 25 years prior to the device being invented?

    • by jd2112 (1535857)
      Hollywood innovation: Making the same TV cop show they previously made, but set in another city.
  • Innovation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hattig (47930) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @04:46AM (#41176395) Journal

    I'm sure that people understand that innovation isn't a black and white thing, and that some things are more innovative than others. Hence "the best thing since sliced bread" - i.e., something can be innovative but not as innovative as something else.

    In the long term, something is innovative if we cannot live our daily lives without it. For example - indoor plumbing, light bulbs. In terms of always available communication the mobile phone was completely innovative. And the smartphone merely enhanced that and merged in myriad other devices into the single unit. A total innovation in itself, and making that conglomeration of functionalities usable in itself is clearly an innovation.

    But maybe not as innovative as pre-sliced bread.

    (note, I don't actually think that pre-sliced bread is that innovative, but maybe the means by which it can be pre-sliced and then not go solid or stale quickly is.)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:07AM (#41176477)

      What's really innovative about sliced bread is how they slice it without cutting the wrapper it comes in. Ingenious!

    • Re:Innovation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fearofcarpet (654438) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @06:18AM (#41176699)

      In my opinion, an innovation is something that no one thought of before and that performs better than its predecessors. It is not a synonym for invention or discovery. Take graphene for example. People had been working with it in various forms (usually called "exfoliated graphite") for decades because it has all the interesting properties of graphite, but with an enormous surface-area to volume ratio. Theorists predicted interesting properties in single, isolated sheets of graphite, and there was some evidence to support it, but nothing really came of it. Then someone got the idea to use scotch tape to rip off a few layers of graphene from bulk graphite, which eventually lead to a Nobel prize. The innovation wasn't the scotch tape, or the graphene, or even using scotch tape to exfoliate a laminar material; it was using scotch tape to exfoliate graphite.

      That one little innovation allowed all kinds of measurements that validated the intriguing properties of graphene and sparked a deluge of research across the physical sciences. Now, let's contrast it to something like the iPhone. Was that an innovation? I say no. Everyone had thought of the smartphone already--they were just waiting for the technology to catch up to expectation. People were using proto-iPads to keep track of stock trades decades [npr.org] before the iPod existed.

      I think that in the business world, success is equivalent to money and innovation drives success, therefore anything that makes money is innovative. And since things that make money are generally popular, they use the word "innovation" to describe creating something that is popular, which essentially boils down to having the right idea or product and the right time.Thus Apple--which makes very popular, well-designed products--has become synonymous with innovation. I'm not knocking Apple; convincing people to enter their credit card information in order to use a device that they already bought is pure genius. But what have they done that is really de novo, that was more than just clever or marketed effectively?

      • I don't have an opinion, but I will refer to the dictionary definition

        1: the introduction of something new

        2 : a new idea, method, or device : novelty

        Apparently there is no minimum size that can be applied to it's usage.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Wovel (964431)

      There is nothing in your post you can't live without.

  • Innovation is a good contender, though it's got to be "plan". Some of the chaps in my department spout the term but quite frankly they couldn't plan their way out of a paper bag. Hurrah for being a civil servant...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It's those damn civil service exams. They've turned from testing wit to confirming robotic obeisance to a particular worldview.

  • too many words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ciderbrew (1860166) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:00AM (#41176437)
    The amount of new business/marketing speak that comes out of the U.S.A. is very innovative.
    Reach out to instead of contact is the thing that bugs me right now.
    George Carlin had a whole wonderful bit about this - "You will not hear me say: bottom line, game plan, role model, scenario, or hopefully."
    http://www.iceboxman.com/carlin/pael.php [iceboxman.com]
  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ganty (1223066) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:00AM (#41176439)

    It's 'Syngergy', along with maybe 'Wellness'.

    And why are salesmen now called 'Sales Executives'?

    ARRGGHHHH!!

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      Because it takes a lot of skill and patience to manage a customer. Since a salesman is managing a customer therefore he must be management and if he's been doing it long enough, he can become an executive.

      It's like calling a guy who writes Ruby a Software Engineer.. LOL

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My salesman pet peeve is in the financial industry. Calling salemen "Financial Advisors" kills me. The only advice they're going to give you is how to steer you into financial products that increases their book the most - like vairable annuities.

    • by skine (1524819)

      It's Account Executive, you insensitive clod!

      • by arth1 (260657)

        It's Account Executive, you insensitive clod!

        Account Executive is so oughties. Now everyone starts as a Key Account Manager.

        Title creep is rampant, and part of the reason is corporation's reluctance to give people raises that match the overall income progression. In order not to lose employees, they have to be promoted to get a salary. And soon enough, you have everyone working at the higher grades, and they have to invent new grades to promote people into.

        There was a time when a company had one veep. Everyone who in yore would have been a departm

  • Patent Troll 101 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by some old guy (674482) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:06AM (#41176465)

    "Innovation" is a favorite term of patent trolls and other technovultures to describe nebulous ideas as patentable products that are nothing more than vaporware.

    Of course, the list of engineering carrion-feeders is long and distinguished. You can be a Fortune 100 company and still be a patent troll from the standpoint of registering ethereal brain-farts as IP.

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:14AM (#41176491)
    The most abused word in business has to be the word "invest".
  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:16AM (#41176501) Homepage

    Really, it's an euphemism for "invention", but used to describe things that do not qualify for patents.

    What should be said in its place is "improvement", "engineering" and anything done by "knowledge workers".

    • If "sex worker" is the PC euphemism for prostitute, what's "knowledge worker" the euphemism for?
    • by Bigby (659157)

      Actually, I was going to post something about that.

      Innovation is different than invention. What the summary describes in invention. Innovation is Revolutionary-lite. The idea of combustion engine was an invention. The creation of a feasible combustion engine was revolutionary. The arrangement and count of pistons is innovation.

      A smartphone is innovative. Moving you product from the desktop to a mobile device is innovative.

      A 3D printer is revolutionary.

  • by paiute (550198) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:25AM (#41176535)
    This analysis smacks of looking back at tech history through a biased lens. Those innovations cited did not appear fully formed but evolved from simpler forms. I think it is quite silly and unimaginative to call a computer you can put in your pocket - and just incidentally make phone calls with - which by itself is more powerful than all the computers in the world just a few decades ago not an innovation.
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      except radio telecommunications is innovative, and touchscreens too, and a fair few other bits and bobs that make up a smartphone. Calling it "a small computer" is not giving credit to the advanced technology that has gone into making it - even if you think its a commonplace device (kids of today, tut).

      that said, rounding off the corners is NOT innovation.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Viol8 (599362)

        A small computer with some radio hardware is all they are. Pretending otherwise just makes you seem deluded. And they weren't an innovation, they were simply a progression of what had come before. There was no quantum leap despite what apple fanbois might have us believe since touchscreens have been around for decades and apple even used them on the dog that bombed called the Newton.

        • by paiute (550198)

          A small computer with some radio hardware is all they are.

          You are proving my point. Go back 50 years and hand anyone this tiny box and tell them it's only a small computer. No big deal.

          • by Bengie (1121981)
            Go back 10mil years and explain how you're just a chimpanzee. No big deal.

            Amazing how many many generations evolution can lead to something that seems new and special, but was really just the logical result.
        • by Karlt1 (231423)

          If it was so obvious, then why didn't any of the cell phone companies with decades of experience do it first? Why did the first Android prototypes look like BlackBerry knock offs?

          • by Viol8 (599362)

            Because blackberry was - and still does - do a better job for mobile business use. There was no market for easy to use smartphones for sheeple until mass market GPRS/EDGE arrived allowing reasonable download speeds, which not coincidentaly was shortly before the iPhone appeared. Funny huh?

  • When they say: "We're comitted to..... blah blah...."

  • it's Solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Have business stopped using the word "Solutions"? If not... I vote for that word. I'd be willing to bet that the only solution ever accurately received from a Solutions Provider has been a cup of sugary coffee.

  • No - Passion is.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dwkns (2607961) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @05:45AM (#41176597)
    'Passion' is the most abused word. Don't tell people you are passionate - show them!!! I stare wordlessly at people who misuse the word passion for an inappropriate amount of time. Very quickly they realise what they have done wrong. Actually it works for all of the abused words. Innovation, solutions, synergy etc. Try it, it's fun.
    • Also... I'm doubtful as to whether most people really want to work with someone 'passionate'. A passionate person tends to ignore reason and logic and fly-off-the-handle when they don't get their way. I quite like to keep strong emotions out of my day-to-day job...

  • Every little engineering detail in software or hardware now is a "technology". A new kind of button is a technology. Inverting the direction of scroll is a technology. Least squares optimization is a technology.

    • Wait...do you mean I should stop telling our clients that we "Invented a new inventive and productive technology to optimize the display of the typographically-easy-accessable tabular-grid" when all I did was switch the "Order" property of the column to true?
  • ... "Success". Next is "successful people". There is an assumption that this is all about money. Of course for a business, it is. But for most people, once they have enough money to live comfortably (which the one percenters want to take from everyone for themselves), then what matters is happiness in life, such as family, and their art of living. Money is merely the means to get there because we have made that so.

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @06:27AM (#41176739)
    Then again I think I agree with John Carmack that many managers and business heads think it means 20 cents.
  • It's kind of ironic that the companies that talk about innovating the most are usually the companies that also internally stifle it the most. It is extremely hard to "innovate" with tight and usually colluding deadlines, little room for error and little breathing room from heavy-handed "auditing."

    Coming up with new and cool ideas requires time and room for mistakes. These cost money. Bigger companies can't have that.
    • by MrCrassic (994046)
      Stupid me; I meant "colliding," not colluding. Though I guess the deadlines can agree to be as tight and inconvenient as possible.
  • The rivets in airplanes are only now being partially replaced. This has always been a what the heck for me. The main difference between a jet in Mad Men and now is the smoking. All kinds of little things since 1960's air travel make it mostly safer such as the detection of wind shear but is almost nasty that a jet from 50 years ago could operate today almost unnoticed. There seems to be a cultural rejection of anything that is significantly better. One guy crudely glued a nosecone and tail onto his honda gi
    • The rivets in airplanes are only now being partially replaced.

      You mean with composites, I presume? Composites have bee usd for years in aircraft, it's the main structural bits which may be due to move to composites in airlinres soon. In less critical roles they were adopted first and are slowly percolating down to the most conservative end of things.

      That's not a lack of innovation. It's taking the inovation (composites), figureing out how to apply it to aircraft (innovative), then making sure it is very we

    • by tomhath (637240) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @07:45AM (#41177127)

      The rivets in airplanes are only now being partially replaced.

      There are good reasons to rivet together individual pieces of metal instead of welding them together. For one thing, a crack will move across a weld much easier than it can cross a riveted seam. Ships, skyscrapers, and bridges were also riveted together for the same reason. Today the engineers are getting better with materials and welding so eventually rivets will be obsolete, but there's nothing really wrong with using them.

      • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @08:18AM (#41177403) Journal

        You can also replace panels much more easily if they're rivited. Like for instance when one of the catering supplies vehicles reverses into the side of a plane.

        Every so often you will see planes with funny, oddly painted panels on the outside. Basically pretty much every part is replacable, and many do in fact get replaced throughout the life of the plane.

  • If you really want to see weaseling and lying in action - it's the word "reasonable".
    * Full-time employees and part-time employees may be required to work "reasonable" overtime and thereby qualify for overtime payments
    * ,,, reasonable charges may apply
    * The service provider must provide reasonable levels of support after hours

    It's the word for defining an undefined amout, that changes on whom is interpreting it and how they want the situation to pan out.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Don't forget criminal law: "reasonable doubt" and "reasonable suspicion" are both key concepts.

  • an economist writing a paper on technology, Innovation is an abused term all around. While the current smartphones might be more pervasive than innovative, they are being utilized and accommodated in more places. So in the end the application gatekeepers allow compatibility and I can do more on my phone than I ever could in the past. So is acceptance and exploitation of a technology, innovation?

  • Obvious (Score:4, Insightful)

    by itsdapead (734413) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @07:14AM (#41176949)

    innovations involve things like the combustion engine or air conditioning

    Pah. Obvious variations on the Carnot heat-engine cycle! As for indoor plumbing - that's just a small aqueduct with a lid and rounded corners!

    Seriously, though, I think it's useful to have a word for "did not invent but turned into a practical and useful product". E.g. the first internal-combustion engine cars were not exactly user friendly - others adapted them for the mass-market. That takes the foresight to spot an invention with potential, a ton of cash to invest and a willingness to take risks.

    The problem with the patent system is that only really works in a nostalgic fantasy world when an engineer declares "Gosh, I've just made an important discovery about thermodynamics - how do I share that with the scientific community without sacrificing my competitive edge in the steam engine market". It relies on the blunt instrument of the legal system to make tricky, subjective decisions on whether or not ideas are obvious, when even the experts in that field would probably argue.

    If you could find a suitable genius polymath capable of making such judgements and prepared to work in a patent office, they'd probably get bored with all the bureaucracy and just sit there daydreaming about riding on the beams of light coming in through the window...

  • I am not going to argue what is innovative or not. But, many companies have no clue how to simply keep their products fresh. Design by giant committees keeps a lot of companies stale, and many get killed by change. RIMM comes to mind, and there are many others. Sure RIMM made an "innovative" new phone OS, but so did Apple and Google. RIMM's corporate structure certainly stifled their ability to innovate within a competitive time frame. Even Google recognized they were missing important new product innovatio
  • by DaMattster (977781) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @07:21AM (#41176973)
    Not only is innovation an abused word but so is engineer. I've seen positions for server, network, and desktop engineering. These are not engineering positions, they are implementation and configuration specialist positions. A true computer engineer is the one who designs and builds the microprocessors and motherboards and other associated components. A network engineer doesn't actually "engineer" anything, they implement and configure. These are sad and sorry times when we dilute the meaning of engineer to someone who has passed his or her MCSE, CCNP, etc. What about the masters and college grads with actual degrees in Engineering and have passed Professional Engineering exams? Those are the true engineers. We devalue these terms in the name of making some job look more exciting than it is or giving someone a fancy title instead of paying them the market wage. I have held a Desktop Support Engineer position and I steadfastly refused to call myself an engineer. Nope, I'm just simply Tier III support.
    • Agreed. However our society doesn't seem to value scientists much either and that label isn't being abused like engineer.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Wait, you're saying that the "sanitation engineers" riding around on trucks don't have 5 years of post-secondary education?

  • by coofercat (719737) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @07:54AM (#41177185) Homepage Journal

    After our recent out-sourced data-mining operation, our world-class Data Research team have concluded that "innovation" is not an overused word, phrase or best-practice.

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @07:56AM (#41177213)
    ... Microsoft was one of the worst offenders a decade or so ago. Microsoft used the term "innovation" as a cover-up for their stifling monopolistic-like practices in the PC world. "Innovation" in the 1990's is what got Microsoft where it is today - an aging, bloated, internally-conflicted organization.
  • Innovative is soooo early 2000s.
  • bingo!!!
  • Is it the most abused word? Probably not.
    But is it an abused word? Yes.
    Every single big company claims they do it, but the closest thing we have to such is Apple stealing ideas from companies A and B and putting them together with rounded corners.
  • I actually read the full 25 page paper, thus my late comment that will now be buried at the bottom of the heap. It was a fascinating perspective on the past millenium of human history -- I can't recall the last time I read a 25-page PDF word-for-word in one sitting. But in its stated goal of predicting "per capita output" of the "99%" for 2007-2100, it failed to consider three critical upcoming changes to human society.:

    1. The Singularity. Estimates vary of when it will happen, centered on around 2050. Any forecast for 2007-2100 must account for the Singularity.

    2. Population. The UN is forecasting "peak population" sometime during the coming century. By not taking into account population, the paper ignores the denominator of its thesis metric! As automation continues to replace human labor, it's possible that in the future, contrary to millenia past, population reduction may result in an increase of GDP per capita.

    3. Sex. A combination of increasing wealth disparity and accelerating promiscuity will turn a greater share of the 99% into sex chattel to serve the 1%. The paper goes on and on about the "disgusting" work of shoveling horse excrement a century ago, but fails to consider the possibility that future work will be even more disgusting.

    The overall irony here is that in this dystopia that I've painted here, that of human sex chattel and singularity robots serving the 1% with overall reduced population, the ratio GDP/capita might actually still be increasing. The paper author reveals a critical error in thinking when he writes, "By definition, whenever hours per capita decline, then output per capita must grow more slowly than productivity." That is certainly true in the Calculus "infentissimal" sense but ignores the possibility of the Singularity bringing exponential "output" that overwhelms a declining human population.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Thursday August 30, 2012 @10:14AM (#41178665)

    At the end of the day, the innovative synergy of cloud paradigms thinking outside the box right sizes the alignment to break through the clutter and diversify clear goals by leveraging facetime with generation X and empowering globalization and proactively streamline organic growth to a win-win exit strategy by collaborating on the back-end the convergence of emergent behavior of quantum nano-scale design patterns using real-time scalability using the SaaS cloud framework to create immersion in the workflow of mobile mashup for convergence with web 2.0 using html5 to clickthrough the information superhighway at 4g speeds.

He who steps on others to reach the top has good balance.

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