Let’s Kill Innovation

Steven Hodas, via a kind Deb Britt email:

In the past couple of years I’ve probably used the word “innovation” thousands of times and read or heard it thousands of times more. Naturally. I worked in an Office of Innovation (inside the Division of Talent, Labor and Innovation) running “Innovate NYC Schools” (Twitter handle @innovatenycedu), which was funded by a grant from the Investing in Innovation program (from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement). I’ve written here about “Innovation 1.0,” “Innovation 2.0,” and “failure[s] of innovation.” But it’s a lazy term for a hazy concept and I vote for a moratorium.

First, “innovation” manages to be both too vague (it can be applied to anything, and is) and too narrow (it’s usually just a trendier, TED-ier version of “technology”). Because it’s used so often without referring to anything in particular, it begins to feel like an incantation from the realm of magical thinking. Second, surveys show that outside of Silicon Valley, “innovation” has a terrible brand with most parents and educators. It worries the former and induces eye-rolls from the latter, so invoking it as a goal or a policy is not a great way to make new friends.