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Innovation Theatre: Purpose or Play?

It is interesting that the phrase “Innovation Theatre “is appearing in many articles and is being used in a derogatory sense; so I thought it would be good to examine where it is coming from and what claims are being made.

The main protagonists are inferring that hackathons, innovation workshops etc. within enterprise achieve little in real output. They imply that the sole purpose is to show a company or government is being proactive and is purporting to be advancing technology by expanding participant involvement in the process. They also infer that it is more about talking, displaying and demonstrating than doing.

If we look at a dictionary definition of innovation we get “a new idea, creative thoughts, new imaginations in form of device or method”. All of these terms are abstracts, so they do not convey that a definitive outcome is guaranteed.

There does exist a percentage of what I call professional presenters that seem to be at every show offering the same message, but is that a bad thing? If they inspire people to think then surely this has a positive role to play in the innovation process.

When ‘Theatre’ becomes the sole purpose of the innovation process is when we have issues;

  1. While it may be more fun to go to a hackathon and play, or a workshop and listen, rather than staring at a blank screen hoping for an innovative thought to suddenly appear, one must ask, does this help, or only delay finding a solution? When you return to your work the same problem exists, did the hackathon or the workshop help? Many times the subject discussed is generalised and is not specific to your issue.
  2. A problem also exists when a player is seen to be using a lot of buzz words such as Cloud-Based, Disruptive, Digital Transformation, very agile, Big Data and used in a manner that no definitive message can be construed. This is just bad theatre and unfortunately, it’s not hard to find. They are simply verbalising in-words and catch-phrases without purpose or message.

The one defining requirement of innovation is purpose.

So, if “Innovation Theatre” does inspire people to think and want to be involved then there is nothing wrong with a little play-acting, just don’t expect it to provide instant results.

And yes, if you are not impressed with the acting, it is Ok to leave the show.

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