I’ve spent the last decade in the “tech industry” with a misunderstanding of the word “innovation”.
In the tech industry, innovation doesn’t have anything to do with technology; it’s about innovation at higher levels of abstraction, usually as business or market(ing) innovation.
Innovation here is about doing things like taking an existing product and making it suck less, or (as is more often the case) fiddling with the parameters of a product, service or business to increase its quality as measured by a particular metric (usually at the cost of other metrics).
Thus “disruption” is no longer a pejorative term, in fact it is the key indicator of “success” (which is another word that is defined differently in the industry).
This revelation was quite a relief to me, because using the traditional definition I felt like I was slowly going mad. As I watched (technologically) innovative companies be condemned to failure while non-(technologically)innovative companies were smothered in praise, I started to question my grip on reality.
But with this new definition in hand, what I’m seeing makes a lot more sense. With this definition, a taxi company that subtracts all of the customer and worker protections that have been part of the taxi business for almost a century is an “innovation”. Systems that further distance doctors from patients, or parents from children are “innovative”.
As soon as you understand that innovation in the tech industry has nothing to do with technology, it all makes sense. This explains a lot of my struggles, especially my extreme feelings of alienation with this “tech industry”.