Innovation has always been a broad term. Light bulbs seem to be a pretty common representation. Snooze. In the past several years we’ve all seen the flagrant overuse of the word “innovative”. I’m sure many of you have used it today, whether on your own or a mandate from a client, everything that everyone is doing seems to be innovative.

As I groggily struggle through innovation fatigue I find myself constantly questioning others or asking myself – “Is this really innovative?” or “What is truly innovative?”

Unshocking confession, I’ve often been against the term “innovation”. Maybe it’s because of the blatant innovation saturation, but also because I usually think of innovation as something never done before. Maybe I’ve seen and read too many Steve Jobs interviews and presentations. So, historically, a lot of self-proclaimed “innovations” have seemed like crap to me.

To examine innovation I think you have to look closely at creativity. I think that is where innovation is born, in a simple, yet powerful idea. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the creative process and the output from that energy including Steven Pressfield’s “War of Art” and, most recently, “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. As I’ve been reading their books about the creative process and getting the work done, I’ve realized there is another way to look at innovation, particularly when thinking about clients, and that is that…

It is all relative and everyone puts their own natural, creative mark, on any idea.

And that is at the heart of innovation.

Doing things differently, new ideas that a specific client has never heard or considered, things that are viewed as common place in one industry can be considered innovative to other clients, or in another industry.

This approach also makes being innovative seem more achievable.

Innovation as never done before is scary, intimidating, and overwhelming – paralyzing.

New ideas, processes, or approaches that have never been done before by a specific client or in a specific industry may be scary, but it isn’t quite as intimidating or overwhelming. That doesn’t make it any less new or innovative. Just more actionable.

As you continue in your life, and in your work, I challenge you to allow other industries and individuals to inspire you. Think about the innovations you can offer up or incorporate to make your clients’ day – whether it is saving time, money and gray hairs improving a process, strategic communications that tie directly to a business objective, or big ideas that wow a prospect, innovation is in the eye of the beholder.

Then again, if you are claiming something is innovative in an industry where everyone is doing it, or offering an innovative approach to a client that they are already doing, I can’t help you, that’s still just a load of crap.