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Stop Me Before I “Innovate” Again!

The Wall Street Journal is out with a funny (and brutally honest) takedown of a word that has achieved almost-mythical status among business thinkers like me. That word is innovation, and it’s quickly losing whatever meaning it once had.

Robert MacDonald, the most creative and opinionated insurance-industry executives I’ve ever met (yes, I know, he doesn’t have tons of competition), likes to say that the art of doing something new is a matter of “reminiscing about the future.” That is, conjuring up a set of ideas and practices that are so original that established companies can’t begin to make sense of them, let alone respond to them — and painting a vivid picture of what your organization can become if it delivers on its change-the-game agenda. That was the spirit behind LifeUSA, MacDonald’s memorable contribution to an industry whose record of innovation is pretty forgettable, and it’s a spirit shared by most of the genuine innovators from whom I’ve learned.


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