Innovation is not a Buzzword

Posted by Gabriel Couture on March 31, 2016

In March of 2013, The Onion, a satire news organization, published a mock article with the title, “Word ‘Innovate’ Said 650,000 Times at SXSW So Far.” It was a comical and apt observation of what can be described as an era obsessed with innovation. It was true in 2013 and is more-so in 2016.

With the advent of tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist celebrities; the introduction of terms like startup, incubator and accelerator to our general vernacular; and the disruption of traditional industries like banking, transportation and hospitality among others, the emphasis on innovation and technology is revealing deeper socio-economic anxieties. The world is complex, competitive and evolving at exponential rates, and individuals and organizations need to deal with it.

The innovation race

The pace of change and ability of new businesses to completely alter the marketplace has led to our current state of affairs: an innovation race where the prize is nothing less than organizational survival. In response to the “disruptors,” older established companies have also joined the fray and are actively engaging in innovation. The problem is that not all of them are doing it well.

Dilbert comic

Many organizations are innovating for innovation’s sake; with no vision or clear objective in mind. It is a result of the pressure companies and their industries face. If everyone’s doing it, so should they! Ill-prepared, mismanaged and uninformed organizations often make awkward and sweeping decisions about investing in innovation based on the pressure they face instead of an internal desire to do so. In most cases, the consequence is a limited top-down approach seeking to produce something noteworthy or remarkable, which is not how successful innovation is accomplished.

Successful innovation

Companies like Apple and Google have successfully differentiated themselves from others by making innovation fundamental to their brand identity. Neither has an innovation department; instead, the promotion of problem-solving skills, creativity, and employee empowerment is celebrated across their workforces and innovation is embedded in their DNA. Both companies currently play an extensive role in shaping the current socio-economic discourse. They inspire us with their innovations and please us with their technologies and services. Today, stakeholders, users and customers value companies and services that anticipate and exceed their needs and expectations. Given a difficult and competitive marketplace, it is not surprising to see organizations of all kinds flock to the ‘fertile shores of innovation’.

Let it be known, innovation is hip, it is happening, and everyone is talking about it!

But innovation is not a buzzword, or a fad; it is not an empty shell of a term that means something different for everyone. Innovation is a necessary endeavour for continued success and relevance.


At Hackworks, we meet with many individuals and organizations looking for solutions that will help them drive positive innovation in their workplaces. Some come prepared, but many are looking for answers, facing this world of exponential technologies and unsure about what needs to be done to successfully adjust to this new environment. Over the coming weeks, we will flesh out the reasons why you should be doing innovation in your workplace, how you should be doing so, and the various ways hackathons improve the likelihood you will successfully drive innovation and entrepreneurial thinking in your workplace.

The posts in our series will explore the following topics:

1. Controlling the conversation is controlling the marketplace: Innovation as a sculptor of socio-economic discourse.

2. Making use of underused capital: Why engaging your employees is a surefire way of improving your business.

3. How to avoid having the rug pulled from under your feet: Innovation as a means to remain relevant and agile in times of rapid change.

4. Why understanding your customer is the best way to effectively innovate: Successfully introducing your ideas to the marketplace is true innovation.

5. Innovating for a competitive advantage. The financial and professional benefits of creative problem solving and innovation.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for updates on future content and the posts outlined above.

Credit for the banner photo goes to Jessica Pankratz.