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There are certain terms MBAs use that, when seen in the proper context (real life), are meaningless. In this series, we tell you how to avoid them and choose superior alternatives.

By Ben Feuer

Somewhere along the line, the American public decided that innovation was a good thing.  This was not always so.  In Victorian England (or pretty much anytime in China), innovation was subordinate to a host of other virtues such as obedience, piety and courage, none of which you're likely to encounter in an essay for business school today.

In other words, we have all conformed to innovation.  How's that for irony?

We're not knocking innovation.  Innovation is a good thing.  But it is also a rare thing.  Were your leadership techniques really innovative, or just imaginative?  Even inventive sets a lower bar than innovative, which means, quite simply, the introduction of something NEW.  New, as in unprecedented.  Any leadership technique you are likely to have utilized at your job has been used literally millions of times before, and the relentless hyperbole and self-aggrandizement implied by the word innovative is (dare I say it?) itself now a cliche.
What about your business idea?  Surely it is innovative, or at least revolutionary.  Again, probably not.  If your business were truly innovative, brand new, we would have heard about it.  It might be clever, dynamic, sophisticated, efficient -- but double-check your word choice when you use that tired word innovative.

Innovative is played out.  If you really are a groundbreaking thinker, use that 1000 watt brain of yours to dream up a more exciting word to use.
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