Brett Sadler

‘Innovation’ is key, or is it just a buzz word?


Who doesn’t like the word innovate? In #ukhousing and beyond it’s become a fairly common used word.

Meaning of Innovation (Cambridge dictionary):


:(the use of) a new idea or method

There seems to be a growing consensus that using the word innovation so liberally has effectively watered down its meaning and its effectiveness.

For me, innovation is still a useful word to describe something that I aim to do as often as possible in my working life. It’s about trying to improve things by doing things differently. It’s about coming up with new ideas and new ways of working. It’s about looking at everything and asking, is there a better way of doing this?

Whether that is ultimately ‘innovation’ in its truest sense, or whether other words could be used in place of innovation, is open to debate. You could even extend this argument to say that it really doesn’t matter what it’s called – it’s the act of doing something different!

The idea of innovation is nothing new, although I do think it’s fair to say that some people are definitely more inclined to ‘innovate’ on a regular basis (and to use this phrase during the process).

I well remember when starting a new job, telling my new managers that one of my key aims for the service was ‘innovation’. The look on their faces told me this was a completed new aim for them and not something they were used to! Of course, I then went on to describe what innovation meant for me and what this might look like for the service. The idea of this being a key ‘plank’ of the service was key as far as I was concerned; it was a means to an end. New ideas were needed and for me, ‘innovation’ fits the bill as a way of describing this aim. But taking this a step further, innovation can become a key driver for organisations as a whole, where this is embedded into every role within an organisation.

That said, I sometimes do have a problem with how often the word innovation is used, as I suspect that this often alienates the % of staff who do not want to innovate. Using a different phrase like ‘new ways of working’ can sometime help in these situations. My experience tells me that some staff just take an instant dislike (and suspicion!) of the word ‘innovate’.

So, do you think the word innovate/innovation is too often used in #ukhousing and beyond?

Please leave your thoughts below.


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2 thoughts on “‘Innovation’ is key, or is it just a buzz word?

  1. I think Innovation has become a catchall for many different things. Broadly speaking its recognition of the fact that the way we’re doing things now might not be viable in the immediate future.

    It is a real thing. You can see evidence of disruption (number 2 on the buzzword chart!) in the tech industry. They are the outliers for the trend. Technology is no longer confined to the tech sector, it’s an integral part of all our jobs which means sooner or later it’s heading for us!

    Disrupt or be disrupted!

    • Some good points here by Neil. The Auditor General for Wales has been advocating well managed risk taking for quite some time – we can’t afford to carry on working in the same way. Here’s an overview of his perspective ( – it may help in advocating the need for change? I think Brett is bang on in terms of terminology too – it’s often been misused for changes that have left staff disenfranchised, which may mean it can be seen as linked to redundancies and negative change from a workforce context. Definitely important to think about language.

      Great blog Brett!


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