Innovation

Over the past several years, businesses have been hot to connect sustainability and innovation. Sustainability is the driver behind all kinds of amazing things—from carbon-neutral plastic to net-zero-energy buildings. But when you mash up the most overused word in the business world with the most overused word in the CR world, it’s a double whammy of jargon.


How
innovation falls
flat

Everyone's an
innovator

Everyone's
innovator

An engineer, a sustainability expert and a venture capitalist all walk into a bar. The engineer introduces himself. “What do you guys do?” he asks. The other two answer, “I’m an innovator.” The engineer frowns: “Hey, that’s my line!”

It's Undefined

It's Undefined

Innovative is so overused—who knows what it means anymore? It can signal an improvement, or just stand in for new and good.

It sounds like
a fad

It sounds like
a fad

Innovative just sounds like the next new thing, soon to be replaced by another next new thing. Something that’s innovative is no longer revolutionary, it’s just an upgrade.


Why
we use it
anyway

It's Hopeful

It's Hopeful

Innovation is all about making progress. We need new thinking and new solutions to tackle big problems like climate change and food insecurity. When we talk about sustainable innovations (or social innovations), we believe we have a fighting chance.

It helps you
reach a new
audience

It helps you
reach a new
audience

Sustainability is often linked to doing the right thing. Nice—but where’s the ROI in that? When you point out it can be a source of innovation, all of a sudden a whole new group of business-minded people start to pay attention.


What to do
instead

Get descriptive

Get descriptive

If you’ve done something truly innovative, people will know it whether or not you ever call it innovative. Describe what you’ve done and let the innovation speak for itself.

Keep it simple

Keep it simple

New, changed, improved, better, different. These words do the same work as innovative, but they are more easily understood.

Save it for
something
special

Save it for
something
special

When the Selfie Stick and Google’s smart contact lenses are both deemed innovative, we’ve lost all sense of proportion. Save innovative for something that solves a significant problem.


The backstory

Here are two fun facts about innovate: 1) Calling someone an innovator used to be an insult, akin to calling them a heretic. 2) People used to invent things, but not so much anymore. Instead, they innovate. Check out the details in this great article from The Atlantic.

Submit your own and learn how AHA can help

Got a word that doesn’t work, but can’t think of another way to say what you mean? Leave us a comment and we just might add it to a future release. Problem solved!