Invention or Innovation?

I’m in love with Reggie Watts, or how he’s the answer to our “Innovation Addiction”

Dispatch for Bodies in Space Explores by Sarah Kornfeld

[Repost, August 14, 2012 from]

I admit it. I am in love with the art of Reggie Watts.

It’s not just the hair. Or, that when he was just coming up on the scene I sat on his knee at the wonderful conference, Pop!Tech (2006) and we talked about Quantum Physics (Seriously. Now I know he may have been making it all up! Yet, he was a sweetie and not a cad, and just lovely…see, my love had not subsided).

Yet, here’s why I love Reggie NOW in the full bloom of his success: the joke is on us.

Not only has he proven himself to be a profound wit, mocking rap genius, and character on The Electric Company (hello, admit it – you would LOVE to have a cartoon made about YOU simply doing the A B C’s!) but he’s making fun of the everything he’s able to do: Innovate.

The video I have here is a performance he gave at Pop!Tech (sigh, not from 2006 when I met him and he became part of a pack of buddies in Maine – like Brain Camp where you’re best friends for life for a short time…without bug juice).  It starts with him in a full British accent – in fact, with a spot on Richard Dawkins accent (the famed evolutionary biologist we also met back then, who was like the guest camp counselor brought from town to give a lecture on  having no summer sex – certainly NOT while thinking about God!) – where Reggie does the most brilliant, biting overuse of the word “Innovation”.

I must admit, it’s sad how I have come to push back hard against the word. I feel I have no idea what innovation means anymore. It seems to be code for:

1. Being really smart

2. Making something before someone else

3. Taking some kind of calculated risk, with some kind of calculated return

Innovation. It used to be so exciting. It used to be about the action, the doing, the making of the unknown. Now, it’s an objectified thing, something everyone in the worlds of “innovation” are told to win: like a beauty contest – “Miss Design” or “Miss Thought Leader” or “Miss-Diagnosed, But good thing you designed a way out of that problem”.  Innovation has become cold, and that’s very sad indeed – because in fact it’s a very hot act indeed.

I urge you to watch this video – it will be the best 1/2 hour you can spend because it breaks into three critical, brilliant, daring and dangerous sections:

1. Reggie rips the overuse of the word Innovation and Design

2. Reggie then INNOVATES onstage – he makes everything up on the fly – yet you can see he has an intention, a vision as well as a process to ride his riff – but bring the audience with him all the way to the end

3. He shows humility and humour in his last moments on stage – a Chaplin-esque commentary on how we talk and talk and talk … and in the end we are simply people trying to make some place for ourselves in the world.


It’s my impression that we, those of us in the industry of technology, social media, education and global sharing are addicted to our “innovation” search – instead of digging into what makes us want to innovate – or invent.

We have lost touch with the kid in us (not inner child, I mean that naughty, fun, playful kid with a water balloon) who dared us to try and fail, and had NO NEED to be famous. I’d love to see us return to play, to release ourselves from ANY need to be branded “risk takers” and to simply be passionate “creators”  -  like when we were kids.

Perhaps that’s what Reggie’s trying to remind us?

Again, I love Reggie.  I am his number one fan and wish there was some Futures Tiger Beat or People I could read and sigh at his hair. One day, I hope that he plays Carnegie Hall in the great tradition of Judy Garland meets PDQ Bach: he is an artist of our time, and ironically a true design thinker of the highest category.


Posted on January 2nd, 2013
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