Home Blogs Innovation is a noun (and seven other awesome lessons from TEDxMelbourne)

Innovation is a noun (and seven other awesome lessons from TEDxMelbourne)


Innovation is a noun.

This seems to have been forgotten. Innovation; such a buzz word at the moment, everyone is “doing it.” Trouble is, you don’t “do” innovation; innovation is the result of what you do.

Innovation is an outcome, and along with a handful of inspirational “ideas worth sharing”, the TEDxMelbourne event focussed on the topic of innovation. It was also the message that rang loudest in this writer’s head.

Has ‘innovation’ become old hat?

We need to innovate to expand our horizons, make things better, improve systems, evolve. Thing is, “innovation” has always existed. Even before Steve Jobs! (too soon?)

I appreciate what Steve Jobs has achieved as much as the next man, but as I tap away at my MacBook Pro, and pause to answer a call on my iPhone, or even procrastinate with a game of Words or Angry Birds on the iOS platform, one has to wonder if the flood of tributes following the great man’s death has caused us all to overplay the term “innovation.” People innovated before Steve Jobs, they just didn’t make a big deal “talking” about it.

They “did” it.

On a side note, at TEDxMelbourne, Angry Birds was lauded as a great example of how to innovate by Pete Williams (“aim, fire, adjust”) and ridiculed as one of the great innovation killers by Annalie Killian. I’m torn and slightly confused. If anyone has a strong opinion on this, please leave your comments below. I love a bit of pointless banter.

Innovation needs ideas, but ideas don’t need innovation. They are able to exist purely as ideas and that’s fine. Some of the greatest thinkers of our time came up with some great ideas that never came to fruition. Of course, I can’t name any of them (you need to implement an idea to become known as a great “innovator”), but ideas are great.

TEDxMelbourne spread some great ideas and those ideas were the catalyst for some fantastic discussion out in the foyer. Worthwhile discussion between worthwhile people.

I would rather not critique TEDxMelbourne. I could bang on about the amount of TED talks and music acts used as “filler” during the day but won’t (I realise it is a requirement for TEDx to dedicate a portion of the day to TED.com fodder but we watched ten minutes of a guy playing a wok. Sure, the wok had dents in it and made a great sound, but questions need to be asked…is this “innovation?” Actually, on reflection, maybe it is). Instead, I will list all of the ideas from the day in brief…

Pete Williams asked “are you motivated to succeed or to avoid failure?”

Evan Thornley posited frameworks on how we might build a beautiful organisation.

Amantha Imber suggested we can all be creative if we lift our eyebrows and don’t cross our arms while staring at an asymmetrical image.

Roger La Salle said that to be innovative, we should “find something that exists and make it better.”

Our lovely hosts awakened your’s truly to the existence of a “humour industry.”

Liza Boston said something about Lobsters on Facebook.

Simon Griffiths introduced a model for “consumer philanthropy,” how to apply slipstream marketing for social change and placed an economic denominator on ‘puns.’

Monique Conheady presented her vision for the future of the transport system.

And then, at the end of the day, just as these ideas were rattling in my brain, bashing up against my own pre-conceived expectations, Annalie Killan, “Catalyst for Magic” at AMP (coolest title ever and she even looked like a magician) put it out there that maybe, just maybe, our online addiction is “snuffing out our ability to innovate”. The digitally connected audience did gasp in horror and then tweet with a flurry.

Then like magic, Killian hit the nail on the head. “The revolution may be tweeted, but innovation has to be made…we need more ‘make-fests’ and ‘do-fests’, not just ‘think-fests’ and ‘talk-fests’.

That is how innovation works. TEDxMelbourne produced some wonderful discussion about ideas and even touched on the odd innovation or two. The most dangerous idea of the day, however, was the assumed notion that “idea” and “innovation” are interchangeable terms.

Steve Jobs was a great innovator because be managed to implement ideas. He also said “sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

‘To innovate’ – verb. ‘Innovation’ – noun.

Ben Flavel is an entrepreneur and innovation consultant assisting corporate, SME and fast-growth companies through innovation creation and evaluation, culture development and strategic renewal. Currently, he is an innovation consultant at NeoCogs and director at eQueue He can be contacted on 0417 323 809 or [email protected].