*Albert Einstein. I've been wondering for a while if Business Week is ever gonna get it right (the most likely answer is no). I was not sure if they are merely misinformed or just don't get it, and recently tend to lean towards the latter. Oh well. Last week's Nussbaum's article "Innovation is Dead. Herald the Birth of Transformation as The Key Concept for 2009" maybe does not belong to either of the above mentioned classifications, but it certainly does have problems of its own. Besides the obvious (proclaiming that a thing is dead only to see it resurrecting some months later), it kinda bothered me b/c of something else. Digital marketing has not yet mastered the art of innovation, and is already ready to move onto some other, equally ephemeral concept. I can see a flood of presentations, white papers, company statements, vision documents around the idea of transformation. The very idea is pretty awesome, and some people have been seriously thinking and talking about it. But, aside of the notable examples of COLLINS and Adaptive Path, and I just don't see how an ordinary agency, or any other organization as a matter of fact, can use the concept transformation without, well, transforming itself. Here's where the problem resides: just pulling stuff like this out of someone's ass, without knowing the context, or even the meaning of the concept can lead to no real transformation. There's no way around it. I just don't find this rationale helpful: "[instead of innovation] we need a deeper, more robust concept. “Transformation” captures the key changes already underway and can help guide us into the future. It implies that our lives will increasingly be organized around digital platforms and networks that will replace edifices and big organizations (students already know this, university presidents still have edifice-complexes, which is why so many of them are getting the boot)." Outside the organizational and/or business context, what does this mean? All of the included is true, but it fails short of being merely a description and towards becoming an explanation - the all-evading answer to the question of "HOW". Transformation "implies radical transformation of our systems—education, health-care, economic growth, transportation, defense, political representation. It puts the focus on people, designing networks and systems off their wants and needs. It relies on humanizing technology, not imposing technology on humans. It approaches uncertainties with a methodology that creates options for new situations and sorts through them for the best quickly." Even the people who thought a lot about it, like my friend Lee Maschmeyer, have had a long struggle to exactly pinpoint to clients what the reality of "transformative" company is, and how to implement "transformation" in the ordinary marketing project. Not for the lack of knowledge, but for the lack of any pre-existing conceptual and methodological toolset in the minds of both clients and other players in the digital marketing field. Lee's solution was humble: let's first do something and then talk about it. Yes, that means starting from bottom-up, from the level of tactics, of small stuff that incrementally transforms something bigger. As an approach, transformation is awesome. As an implementation, it requires humility in realization that things don't change all at once. If innovation failed, it might be that we expected too much from it. There's no deus ex machina for anything, digital marketing included. Examples first. Update: some great comments on the Business Week article are here.