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You Call That Innovation?
Companies Love to Say They Innovate, but the Term Has Begun to Lose Meaning
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Updated May 23, 2012 2:42 p.m. ET
Got innovation? Just about every company says it does.
Companies throw the term "innovation" around but that doesn't mean they are actually changing anything monumental. Leslie Kwoh reports on digits.
Businesses throw around the term to show they're on the cutting edge of everything from technology and medicine to snacks and cosmetics. Companies are touting chief innovation officers, innovation teams, innovation strategies and even innovation days.
But that doesn't mean
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innovation strategy consultant Alex Kandybin.
In addition, four in 10 executives say their company now has a chief innovation officer, according to a recent study of the phenomenon released last month by Capgemini Consulting.
The findings, based on an online survey of 260 global executives and 25 in-depth interviews, suggest that such titles may be mainly "for appearances."
Most of the executives conceded their companies still don't have a clear innovation strategy to support the role.
Jeff Semenchuk, who was named Hyatt Hotels Corp.'s H -1.08% first chief innovation officer in August, says there is "nothing fluffy" about his job.
The hotel chain recently interviewed hundreds of guests and concluded that "we're all kind of stuck in the past," he says of the industry.
He oversees experimental initiatives at eight newly designated "lab" hotels around the world. Among his projects: a new process that has an iPad-toting concierge meet guests at the airport and check them in.
Innovation is hardly a new term. The word, which derives from the Latin noun innovatus, meaning renewal or change, appeared in print as early as the 15th century, according to Robert Leonard, chairman of Hofstra University's linguistics program.
As companies have sped up product cycles, the word has come to signify not just doing something new but also doing it more quickly, he says.
Campbell Soup, for example, says

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