Early Uses of the Term “Innovation Fatigue”

I love the term “Innovation Fatigue” to describe the weariness that can beset organizations and sometimes whole sectors of a nation’s economy when it comes to innovation. The term has been floating around for some time. For example, “Innovation Fatigue” was the title of a 1995 article on educational innovation in Scotland, published by The Times Higher Education. A 2004 book, How Industries Evolve: Principles for Achieving and Sustaining Superior Performance by Anita Marie McGahan (Harvard Business Press) also uses the term on page 5. Bruce Nussbaum of BusinessWeek has done much to spread this term, using it in at least three articles: “Do CEOs Have Innovation Fatigue?” from May 2004, “Broken Promise Fatigue Rather Than Innovation Fatigue” in May 2007, and “Innovation Fatigue is Fatal” from March 2007. BusinessWeek also quotes James P. Andrew, a senior vice-president at BCG, discussing “innovation fatigue” in May 2007.

The earliest examples I’m aware of come from a 1974 educational report from Portugal and in 1975, again in the context of education, on page 6 of Curriculum Innovation by Alan Harris (New York: Taylor & Francis), who bemoans innovation fatigue among teachers. (John Nisbet apparently also used the term in a 1975 publication on education, but I don’t have that reference.) Since the 1970s, there have been repeated occurrences of the term in the literature on education, as one can see in a search of Google Books.

If you know of other early uses or unusual uses of the term, please let us know!

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