The Innovations catalogue is lodged in the memory of anyone who grew up in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. Every Sunday, the compendium of cut-price gadgets fell out of newspapers, offering ludicrous inventions that promised to solve everyday problems. Arachnophobic? Try the Spider Catcher ("Lets you scoop up spiders and deposit them back outside without any harm to the insect, you or your nerves!" £7.95). Sagging jowls? The Chin Gym is for you ("A personal isometric facial weightlifting system to trim, tone and firm", £39.95). Everyone was fond of Innovations, but there was a problem. Few people bought anything because the inventions were not innovative at all. They were novelties. As comedian Stephen Merchant pointed out, for every customer "there were thousands of people who looked through and laughed at the absurdity of a motorised tie rack". In 2003, after 20-odd years, Innovations closed - but its spirit lives on in the modern workplace, where the word is overused. A search on ...

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