Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell wrote a book that draws a distinction between “innovation-speak” and innovation and creativity (I added imagination because it's step one). Spoiler-alert, the book is really about the critical role of maintenance in enduring work.
Can you guess why we don't we talk more about that? Because repairing and routines are not as exciting as innovating and inventing. Imagine two profiles. One says, reliable and steady. The other, trailblazing and surprising. Which one do you pick?
Hence, an under investment in repairing corporations, communities, conversations, and even consciousness.
It's an interesting phenomenon that happens in communication. Adapt sounds a lot better than adopt. Efficient feels more achievable than effective. Innovation sounds more interesting than improvement.
One argument central to the book: Just as technology has the power to shape our lives, language has the power to shape our thoughts. And Silicon Valley has used both to ruthless effect.
Here's how it goes:
- Innovation-speak allows us to acquire the power of Imperial Rome while insisting on its fundamental innocence.
- It lets us declare with absolute certainty that disruption is inevitable, unavoidable, and for the long-run benefit of humankind (and, incidentally, our short-term gain).
- It makes us winningly bashful about all the attention we get, and the influence a few of us have over billions of others.
- And it helps us sustain a childlike wonder at the trillions of dollars that keep pouring onto our balance sheets, which almost (but not quite) distract us from our mission of Bringing The World Together, or whatever.
Yet all is not well:
- People keep complaining that this flavor and form of technology is leading to invasion of privacy, data leaks, loss of jobs to robots, child addiction to screens, and elections and democracies subversion.
- The pursuit of novelty for its own sake takes resources and attention away from maintenance and repair. Which matter to keep things going.
- More modest activities are undervalued in just about every way.
- Despite their invisibility, they are indispensable, and absolutely essential in a crisis.
- There’s nobility in “keeping daily life going, caring for the people and things that matter most to us, and ensuring that we preserve and sustain the inheritance of our collective pasts.”
- “It’s the overlooked, undercompensated work that keeps our roads safe, our companies productive, and our lives happy and secure.”
- Our focus on innovation leads us to under-invest in maintenance, which in turn makes innovation harder to sustain. Remember the pace layering diagram that shows how lower levels sustain the ones above?
You'll find similar jargon in other industries: home “remodeling,” spas “rejuvenating,” career “reinventing,” and so on.