Word: “Ideation” (connotation)

By , March 16, 2012

“Ideation.” When I saw this word on a slide during the Salesforce.com keynote presentation at cloudforce/cloudstock, it just seemed absurd. I was right, sort of.

“Ideation” was listed as one aspect or benefit of using web applications (software) to bring “social networking” into the enterprise (large business).

At first, I wasn’t even sure it was a real word, but it is, and it means pretty much what you’d expect: the creation or invention of new ideas.

And in theory, the word’s definition really does reflect the goals or benefits of bringing “social networking” into a business (“social enterprise”). By engaging more people (employees, vendors, customers) in communication, we’re likely to hear new ideas and new perspectives, including ideas contributed by people who are usually voiceless in large companies. (For an article using the term in this context, click here.)

But on reflection, my discomfort with this word in this context wasn’t about its definition (or denotation), but its connotation: The word “ideation” is most frequently used in referring to psychological disorders, in phrases like “suicidal ideation” or “paranoid ideation,” where the ideas being created are actually exaggerated, distorted, unbalanced, or delusional (dangerous fabrications).

As a former English teacher (however briefly), I suppose I’m more sensitive to nuances like this, but I wonder how many other people in the audience felt some subtle disturbance from seeing this word used in this way.

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