The performance engine is the “business as usual”, where the managers want to make profit by making things faster, making predictions based on the past. On the other side we have the innovation organism that looks into the future trying to discover value where there hasn’t been any. The performance engine is characterised as bureaucratic, robotic, ossified, dull, decaying, controlling and patronising. This stands in stark contrast with the essence of the innovation engine: organic, exploring, believing and open. So, on one side we have this machine-like, industrial-age command and control language, on the other side the language of innovation. What kind of discussions do these differing vocabularies create and how compatible are they in a conversation between these two worlds?
The conversation between the performance engine and the innovation organism is a clash of two languages. One that sees innovation as a list of actions, while the other creates the space for innovation. But let’s say “management” is motivated by solving that “innovation thingy”. A pattern emerges – in the eyes of the performance engine, innovation is a to-do list, and therefore we command to innovate:
- We heard that transparency matters, so let’s make everything transparent.
- We heard that we need to have deep cooperation, so let’s cooperate more efficiently.
- We heard we need to be more responsive to an ever-changing market, so be more responsive!
Here we go, that innovation thing is done. This the language of innovation expressed through the language of performance. But innovation language should speak not speak in actions but to and about values, beliefs and conditions. This “actionism” confuses innovation as an action and innovation as a space. Innovation language coaxes, encourages, nurtures and fosters high potential. It is coined by the principles of transparency, cooperation and responsiveness, where questions are important. Where words matter. Where creating a space rather than a to-do list matters. This very space is also creating a space for a more human language.
Call for a new human language
A human language emphasises values, beliefs, conditions. A human language encourages, nurtures, fosters words which create that space of thought. The time of “breaking things and move fast” is over. In times of AI, automation, scaling globally, we’re in desperate need to redefine our humanity. Currently, we need to innovate ourselves, not produce yet another app. We should not want to become machines. The current beast we feed, also known as economics, is based on a whole bunch of rules that are mostly unquestioned.
And that’s the thing. We need to double down on becoming more human and transport this language in all these new and exciting possibilities. To foster a culture of innovation that pushes humanity forward. Our language reflects the road we are currently taking. Let’s have a look at some technology idioms that have become part of our common vocabulary: “My battery is empty.” or “Don’t push my buttons.” Shouldn’t we rather aim to become more human, and stop becoming machines by talking like machines?