WHAT DO WE MEAN BY "INNOVATION," "COLLABORATION," OR...
- February 24, 2011WHAT DO WE MEAN BY "INNOVATION," "COLLABORATION," OR "DESIGN"?If you work in design, you are probably sick of hearing the words “innovation,” “collaboration,” and even the word “design.” They’re used so often that they’ve almost lost all meaning. But sometimes we can be surprised by those things that have been right in front of us. Thinking about the etymology of these words made me think about exactly why we, as designers, were originally inspired by these ideas.Innovation“Innovation,” the word, was first seen in the 1540s. It comes from the Latin word innovatus, which means “to renew or change” and is made up of two words: in which means ‘into’ and novus which means ‘new.’ So, to innovate is to go into the new.This definition helps give a better context to our primary purpose: It’s our job as designers to go into the new. It’s our job to break existing patterns. That’s our goal. And it helps remind us of our responsibilities—we certainly want to help our partners find success, but if pattern makers make money, it’s fair to say that it’s the pattern breakers who make history.Collaboration“Collaboration” made its first appearance in 1871. Deriving from the Latin word collaborare, the word is made up of com which means ‘with’ and ‘labore’ which means ‘to work’. And ‘to work with’ is, really, the brutally simple meaning of the word. It’s about laboring together.Work means applied effort, and effort implies a push against some form of resistance. Work isn’t easy and it shouldn’t be. But the results are worthwhile. I really agree with Bruce Mau when he writes in the Incomplete Manifesto for Growth that “The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.”
There was a great article in the New York Times Magazine in December 2010 on the subject of cities. The author, Jonah Lehrer, describes the unique capacity of cities for innovation, describing how research suggests that cities, because they have a higher degree of ‘human friction,’ are better positioned to solve their own problems. When you get diverse points of view and ideas into a concentrated area, bumping into one another, innovation happens.
That is the heart of collaboration.Full Post on Fast Company
BMD Post on Fast Company Design