Millennials, Motorcycles and Marketing Gibberish

Today I was reading about who is and who is not buying Harley-Davidson motorcycles (http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/millennials-are-wrecking-americas-most-iconic-motorcycle-brand/ar-BBEicIs?li=BBnbfcN ). The article contained the following quote about millennials from an industry market analyst:

Alliance Bernstein downgraded Harley-Davidson (HOG) to market performance from outperform …based on increased conviction that motorcycle demand in the US is in the throes of secular erosion, combined with weakened conviction in the materialization of near-term catalysts.

Huh? Say what? Secular erosion? Weakened conviction? Materialization of near-term catalysts?

I have a Ph.D. and three decades in business consulting and I struggled to find the real meaning of these phrases, which I think is: millennials ain’t buyin’ Harleys.

To me, words matter. Call me old-fashioned, but the careful use of words matters too, especially if you want to…communicate.

This analyst’s words got me to thinking about a pet peeve of mine: For a long time, I have been puzzled by how often words are used interchangeably, with little basis in their actual definitions.

For example, the words “brainstorming,” “creativity,” and “innovation” are often used as if they all mean the same thing. So, for the sake of clearing the air and giving each word their rightful place, I took the time to look up their respective definitions.

BRAINSTORMING:

brain·storm

ˈbrānˌstôrm/

verb

gerund or present participle: brainstorming

1.     produce an idea or way of solving a problem by holding a spontaneous group discussion.

"a brainstorming session"

synonyms:

Conger up, dream, think, ponder

CREATIVITY:

cre·a·tiv·i·ty

krēāˈtivədē/

noun

1.     the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

synonyms:

inventiveness, imagination, innovation, originality, individuality

INNOVATION:

in·no·va·tion

inəˈvāSH(ə)n/

noun

1.     the action or process of innovating.

synonyms:change, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, breakthrough

o   a new method, idea, product

Clearly these words are related, so their synonyms and connotations offer up the differences. Brainstorming is a verb and a tool that is clearly associated with problem solving in the context of a non-judgmental group setting.  Creativity is a noun linked to originality and artistry and as such refers to an outcome or work of art. Innovation is a noun that refers to change, upheaval and breakthroughs. Interestingly, though innovation is a noun, its definition – “the act or process of innovating”—is very verb-like.

I try to keep these words separated. When I speak of brainstorming, I am referring to a tool useful in solving problems. Creativity is a label I use to describe an outcome or work or prototype after the fact. And innovation is a broader process under which brainstorming and creativity may fall.

This may all seem to be much ado about nothing…but words do matter. And since I have created one of the few innovation training programs that links innovation and execution (Innovating for Results) it is important to know what innovation is…and what it isn’t.

And by the way, what IS a “millennial” and just how old are they?

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