Innovation and Status Games

I enjoyed Roland Harwood’s post: Innovation is Meaningless.

For a long time I’ve disliked the word ‘innovation’ as it is increasingly ubiquitous and therefore has become totally meaningless. And it was only last December that I plucked up the courage to say it in a public forum (at a gathering of innovation professionals) and was surprised how many other people came up to me afterwards and agreed vociferously. Ever since I’ve found it quite liberating and say it as often as possible, and was further spurred on when speaking with the CTO of a major global company last week who made exactly the same point.

I think demanding innovation has become largely a status game. Too many organisations promoting innovation have become narcissistic. I don’t need to name names.

I think pomposity and self-importance are by far the most toxic threats to creativity and innovation in organisations. We work better with people who we feel are on our level, neither above nor beneath us. Time and again, I see projects floundering as big cheeses in organisations play out their need for status. I love to quote Casteneda:

Most of our energy goes into upholding our importance… If we are capable of losing some of that importance, two extraordinary things happen to us. One, we free our energy from trying to maintain the illusory idea of our grandeur; and, two, we provide ourselves with enough energy to enter into the second attention to catch a glimpse of the actual grandeur of the universe.

The current British Goverment dabbles in things like the Big Society and Tech City as if these things are the key to innovation. I think they’re largely vanity projects.

Similarly, I really wonder if we can take seriously companies that claim to champion innovation, yet perpetuate massive differences between the pay of top management and everyone else. These bosses are saying: “The value of your contribution to this company is miniscule compared to mine. But I’d really love to hear your ideas.”

I feel the massive challenge for our society is to address spiralling levels of inequality. Posturing about innovation may just be a form of denial.

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