Call it innovative and we will succeed

The word Innovation can mean many things among many different people. But even if we would have a common understanding, would it matter?

When I got my first marketing gig in a startup after university, I was excited to finally work in an environment where I could get creative. Although I never worked at a big enterprise, I imagined the work there to be boring and depressing for some reason. On the other side, I imaged working at a young company fulfilling and so much better than the traditional way.

I couldn't wait to get to work and to join a startup currently enrolled in an accelerator program was the dream for me at the time. I quickly learned many new vocabularies to throw around at all times like Disruption, Traction, and of course: Innovation.

Everyone around me was innovating the hell out of their products using technologies that I still fail to understand correctly.

Today is no different. We read and hear about these crazy new ideas around AI, Blockchain, and Virtual Reality every day. And more importantly, how they are going to change our lives and disrupt some kind of industry.

Innovation gets glorified by all founders, businesspeople, tech-people, venture capitalists, and the media. They all want to build the next N26 or whatever unicorn.

But what is innovation? What makes tech or businesses so much different if they're innovative?

It's not a secret that the term is as loosely defined as it gets. Even experts can't seem to agree on what the I-word means. Or if it means anything at all.

There is one group of people that I didn't mention. The wide range of consumers. Not the ones who are early adopters of new technologies and products. I mean the broad public.

People want their problems to be solved. Not entertained by tech itself that is so out there no one understands what it does.

However, if you're not innovative, you're not worth talking about. So how can something so wage be so crucial to founders, investors, and the media?

Look at some of the most-innovative-company-lists from the likes of Forbes or Fast Company. You'll see a bunch of businesses that you wouldn't expect, like:

  • Coca-Cola
  • Marriott International
  • Starbucks
  • L'OrĂ©al Group

A lot of them have a solid product and might even be rightfully called innovators. But the range here is outstanding.

If we don't have a common understanding of innovation, it's just a sticker that we can slap onto every product. Some companies and startups do precisely that. But after some time, you know if a company is bullshit or not.

Therefore, innovation itself doesn't make or break the success of a company. If anything, I'd be more skeptical as they apparently don't have something else going for them. Ok, that might be a bit too far fetched, but you get the gist of what I'm saying.

There are far more aspects at play to determine if a business idea has a long-lasting impact. And things like customer satisfaction and solving your customers' problems (not your own, I might add) are far more essential and valuable than calling yourself innovative.

But more often than not, it's that boring stuff that gets unnoticed because they really make a difference. Because if the product has to scream, "Look at me, I'm awesome!" there is usually not a lot to see.

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