What is Innovation?

While many organizations acknowledge that innovation is important to their growth and success, the term "innovation" is still without a consistent, agreed-to definition in the business world. So in addition to our definition, we offer some others you may find useful:

  • "Innovation is creativity with a job to do:" John Emmerling
  • "Innovators can hold a situation in chaos for long periods of time without having to reach a resolution…won't give up … have a long term commitment to their dream … innovators introduce a maximum of tension into the thinking process, unifying concepts that often appear to be opposed, solving problems which appear impossible."
    George Land and Beth Jarman, Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today, Harper/Collins Publishers (1992)
  • Incremental innovation seeks to improve the systems that already exist, making them better, faster cheaper. This is sometimes called "Market Pull" Innovation. Radical innovation is more focused on new technologies, new business models and breakthrough businesses. This is sometimes called "Technology Push" Innovation
  • Innovation is people creating value by implementing new ideas
  • The starting point for innovation is the generation of creative ideas. Innovation is the process of taking those ideas to market or to usefulness
  • Innovation is anything that provides a new perceived benefit to a customer or employee
  • Innovation concerns the search for and the discovery, experimentation, development, imitation and adoption of new products, new processes and new organizational set ups
  • Innovation is the conversion of knowledge and ideas into a benefit, which may be for commercial use or for the public good; the benefit may be new or improved products, processes or services
  • Innovation is the process that transforms ideas into commercial value
  • The distinction between "invention" and "innovation" is that invention is the creation of a new idea or concept, and innovation is turning the new concept into commercial success or widespread use
  • Innovation = Invention + Exploitation
  • In the new product literature, the demarkations are:
    1. product extension (same base product with slight modifications; identical product in a new segment)
    2. new platform product (net product from which product extensions are possible)
    3. new-to-the-company products and
    4. new-to-the-world (never been done before; no market exists)
  • The Origin of Innovation: "innovation is the result of:
    1. a shock (a major failure) to the system
    2. problemistic search
    3. random variability in experimentation
    4. deliberate decision to invest in learning
    5. match between a need and ideas which already exist
    6. formal vehicles for stimulating innovation such as research and development
    7. managerial risk seeking or risk averse behavior
    8. availability of slack resources
    9. management philosophy and organizational climate, and
    10. customer needs"
    Yuri Ijuri and Robert Lawrence Kuhn, New Directions in Creative and Innovative Management: Bridging Theory and Practice, Ballinger Publishing (1988)

Defining innovation is not enough. You have to define "innovativeness" for your organization.

Find out why and how



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