Be ingenious, not innovative

Ingenious  or  InnovativeAs a designer, consultant or manager, would you prefer to be personally recognised as being ingenious, or innovative?

The buzz is all around innovation. And it has been for a number of years. If you don’t offer innovation as part of your service offer to clients, then you are missing an opportunity. Because clients love innovation. Don’t they?

The problem is that the terms innovation and innovative have been brought to their knees by a myriad of agencies who declare that everything they do that is new is innovation – and so innovative by default.

This isn’t the case though. Doing new things is a natural part of business. It’s expected. It’s the norm. If you don’t do new things then you are standing still. Or more likely, moving backwards from a relative position to your competitors.

Because being innovative isn’t a badge you should give yourself. It’s a badge of recognition awarded to you by your clients or competitors. Both these groups expect you to be doing new things. But when you are told that what you’ve done is more than just new – it’s better than the normal new things you do – then this is where the innovative badge becomes due to you. It’s not a tattoo you decide to give yourself.

We’ve got to the stage where everyone says they do innovation, yet very few are truly doing it. Innovation has become confused with newness. The term has become muddied, and to some degree, meaningless.

Let’s look at the definitions of innovative and ingenious:

  • Innovative: featuring new methods; advanced and original
  • Ingenious: cleverly inventive or resourceful:

Innovative has a sense of unrestrained openness and newness, possible pushing the boundaries in some way. Whereas Ingenious has a sense of practicality or knowingness of constraints that may exist. Innovation may be a focus on thinking what’s of value outside of the box, while ingenious is more about identifying what’s of value that still remains inside the box.

Anyone can come up with blue-sky, weird-but-wonderful, the-skies-the-limit, think-outside-the-box ideas. But it takes a special skill to recognise the practicalities of the output that need to be considered. Coming up with amazing ideas that are within the constraints and available resources is much harder. This is where thinking inside the box is of greater value. This is where being ingenious delivers the greater rewards over being innovative.

Given big budgets and high resource levels, then business growth is all about innovation. These opportunities are few and far between. The majority of opportunities available for clients have significant resource and business constraints related to them. This is where being ingenious comes to the fore.

Be innovative on those few special occasions, but be ingenious for the rest of the time!

 

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