March 14, 2011

Leadership Limerick: The Responsibility to Make Things Better

To break things up a bit in 2011, I will be offering a leadership limerick each Monday, highlighting an idea or strategy about effective leadership in limerick form.

Making things better should be our aim
Learning from mistakes, not assigning blame

Suggesting changes big and small
Working daily to improve all

Is that improvement or innovation in name?

At the ASAE Great Ideas Conference on Sunday, the opening keynote speaker Matthew May stressed the importance of designing elegant solutions that solve people's problems.  I asked him later whether he made much of a distinction between innovation and improvement since many people struggle with the difference between those terms.

May replied that assigning labels too often is an unhelpful academic exercise, saying that the process of making things better is what counts.  He asked, is the iPad a major innovation as some claim or just a series of well-designed improvements on previous tablets?  And ultimately, does it matter to the customer, or do they just care if it improves their lives?  He instead drew the link between more around improvements vs. breakthrough or exponential innovations (gamechangers).

His take is interesting and I haven't fully decided to what degree I agree.  I do know that when you talk about innovation with some people, they seem to shut down, where speaking of improvements and making things better seems to keep them engaged and committed.

What do you see as the distinction between improvements and innovations, and when/how do you find it most helpful to make it?

2 comments:

Dave Lutz said...

Jeffrey, here's my take - Innovations do not always result in improvement...anything new and different could be labeled as innovative, regardless of it's success.

Improvement gives us a battle cry to rally around...often leading to innovation that improves the status quo.

Have fun and learn lots out at Great Ideas!

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Interesting take Dave. I value language as it creates meaning, so getting this right for the intended audiences is probably pretty important, particularly given the innovation emphasis happening everywhere.

I like improvement as a rallying cry. Everyone can attend that rally.