unnovation

This is a brilliant idea.

Most innovation, well, isn’t: it is “unnovation,” or innovation that fails to create authentic, meaningful value. The biggest stumbling block to innovation is unnovation: most companies are too busy unnovating to ever learn how to truly innovate.

In the race to innovate, most organizations forget a simple but fundamental economic truth. A new process, product, service, business design, or strategy can only be described as an innovation if it results in (or is the result of) authentic, durable economic gains.

Unfortunately, much of what our economy produces today isn’t innovative — it’s unnovative. The evidence is hard to dispute: we merely need to note how deep the global decline is, how consistently 20th Century business fails to do stuff that matters — or just how many industries are caught simultaneously in deep crisis.

Here are some examples of unnovation.

The Hummer was a product unnovation, which destroyed value for both society and Detroit.

CDOs were a financial unnovation, that crippled the financial system, and have cost everyone hundreds of billions.

Integrating into auto finance was a business design unnovation for Detroit — one which diluted and sapped the incentives to make authentically innovative cars.

In our field, innovation requires investment and time. But “unnovation”! That’s a different story.