Since when did “Not New” become synonymous with “Bad”?

“Innovative”.

As Inigo Montoya said, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The word has appeared in every agency creative brief I can remember. One can understand the attraction for clients, of course…the need to differentiate from competitors sits at the top of every marketer’s To Do list. Fair enough. Lately however, I’ve been seeing the dark side of the innovation mantra in creative circles, particularly when it comes to UX design.

Surprisingly often, I see otherwise sane creative people confusing an unusual execution for an innovative solution. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: “Hey, that’s a really clever way to talk about health insurance! I’ve never seen anything like it in the industry.”

Creative Team: (beaming with enthusiasm) “Thanks! We’re really excited about creating a cool online experience.”

Me: “Absolutely! Here’s a great example from a movie site done a few years back. This kind of interaction would tell your story really well.”

Creative Team: (despondent) “Wait…but that’s been done. It’s old. We want to innovate.”

The realization (and joy) that the “innovation” that really counts has already been achieved is completely lost on these folks. You’ve come up with a fantastically fresh take on a stagnant topic…rejoice! Instead, they are focused on making the tactical elements unique, happily discounting inspired solutions from the past that can practically guarantee a great result. That’s like saying “I have a fantastic story idea for children’s book. But I don’t want the book to have pages.”

Have you bumped against this Culture of the New in your work? I’d love to hear your stories!