Pitfalls of 21st Century Buzzwords: Innovation
If I had a quarter for every time I read innovation in a company description, I would probably be able to set up an Innovation Fund of some sort.
Let me save you some time—Yes, we have innovation in our company’s description too. But before we collectively roll our eyes in a Captain Obvious manner, here are some things we identified while tackling the concept of innovation in our everyday teamwork.
During the last couple of months, I got to know Two Desperados inside out.
The first thing that caught my eye was the extent of effort and care that was put into steering the whole company with clarity and ambition.
The second was constant reality checks. This one was pretty handy during the first month of work, while I was giving feedback to our CEO on the company’s defined vision at that time. Since my work is mostly based around ideas, words and their meanings, I came in like a samurai—mentally slashing through those nice words and commonplaces that didn’t have clear meaning when put in practice, or at least not yet.
Contrary to popular belief, communication is not about how we phrase some words in a sentence—it’s about how we phrase thinking and doing.
“We need to dive in deeper and bring substance to the surface,” was the start of our back and forth process of critical and reflective thinking, ideation, application and continuous iteration.
But before we go any further, let’s go back to basics just a bit. The word ‘innovation’ comes from the latin word ‘innovare’, which means ‘to make a novel change, renew, introduce a new thing in an established arrangement’. There’s nothing that comes to mind quicker than the names of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs as synonyms for innovators, making it kind of hard to believe that there was some Ancient Roman version of Steve Jobs long before we bought our first iPhone. Yet, out of the rise of consumer electronics and consumer markets, the concept of innovation rose to the high level of prominence it holds today.
In the rat race of becoming the next Elon Musk, ‘new and novel’ is often misinterpreted for ‘valuable’
New does not necessarily mean innovative, which is why innovation is not an ‘easy breezy lemon squeezy’ kind of deal. Innovation can’t happen without an invention of some sort, so there’s a clear distinction between inventors and innovators.
This differentiation was offered in 1939 by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, who defined invention as an act of intellectual creativity, while innovation implies application onto markets or business models. The greatest pitfall of this overused term lies perhaps in initial motivation.
Most innovations could fail if initial motivation is based on questions like ‘Will this make money and help achieve financial prosperity/stability?’ instead of ‘Will this help someone’s life be easier, better, more creative? How will life on Earth function in 10, 30, 50 years?’
The latter kind of thinking is what makes Two Desperados such a thrilling environment to work in. With a great deal of focus and effort on AI development in the gaming industry, we’re working towards applying AI for the sake of creating a more sustainable business model for gaming companies in the future, thus, games that make players’ lives better.
Innovation is a byproduct of mindset and skillset, not a goal in itself
Surely, we won’t kid ourselves.
Companies need to be profitable and financially stable in order to be able to dream big and shoot for Mars. It’s also true that many innovations so far have happened due to an external crisis, such as a pandemic, but implementing quick solutions in order to survive is an indicator that you’re embracing risk unwillingly, because there’s no alternative.
However, the key to innovation could lie in embracing calculated risk and stepping into uncertainty willingly. Rather than a tangible goal, this would mark innovation as a process that requires critical, creative, reflective and visionary thinking together with traits such as curiosity, resilience, an eye for patterns and the ability to collaborate and communicate. If a company focuses daily on cultivating such a mindset, awareness and skill, innovation becomes natural, like breathing.
Changing the world is not an empty saying if you’re humble about it
Perhaps the most evident pitfall of bringing about innovation is the lack of humility in that process. Striving to deliver a change that will disrupt the way things already work certainly requires a lot of grandiose and ambitious thinking. On one hand, it’s highly unlikely you will try if you don’t already have that drive. On the other hand, being humble is the only way to assure healthy doses of reality checks that are needed in order to innovate.
Either way, the world is constantly changing. We might as well accept we’re part of it—not the other way around.