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.
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!”
Innovative is so overused—who knows what it means anymore? It can signal an improvement, or just stand in for new and good.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New, changed, improved, better, different. These words do the same work as innovative, but they are more easily understood.
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.
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.
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!