Sometimes it’s hard to have a good conversation about innovation, because people understand the concept in very different ways. Let’s start with a general definition that states “Innovation is something new and useful” incorporates both the concepts of novelty and value. Of course questions arise: What things? How new and new for whom? How useful do they have to be?
The way we think about innovation has changed over time. When Edison first established a deliberate, organized process to produce new things of value at his lab at Menlo Park in the late nineteenth century, he was in fact re-inventing the process of invention itself. When I was doing my MBA in the early eighties, the London Business School did not offer a single course on innovation. Over two years I believe we went through just one case study on how to produce and market a new technology (it was on fiber optics).
Today when some people talk about innovation they mean inventing or adopting new technology.
Others define innovation as entrepreneurship – starting a new business.
For an academic or science-based organization innovation is primarily research and development and has a very broad scope – from generating new insights with no possible present use, to inventing new things for a market that is likely to exist in the future, to improving things we already have for markets we have defined today.
Information technologists may argue that innovation is mostly about new processes or process re-engineering.
Outside the capitalist loop, we have the proponents of social innovation – developing new things which have a demonstrable social value. Or of Jugaad – small, smart innovation for ordinary people.
The power of collaboration beyond the confines of a conventional organization are leading many to crowdsourcing and crowdfunding innovation – so independent parties work together to design, produce and finance new things. This is not only a practice of poor little start-ups but giants like IBM and Procter and Gamble.
Innovation is when breakthroughs are made. Innovation is significant new strategies and new business models. Innovation is continuously improving lots of little things. In all cases innovation is change. In most cases innovation is progress. Do we all appreciate the fact that innovation is now a way of life for all human beings?
All of these definitions carry interesting insights. Each approach has different parameters and different points of emphasis. Their utility is often a matter of context. Defining precisely what your own organization’s innovation is all about, is a crucial step to making it happen.
This is a guest post is authored by Dimis Michaelides who is a keynote speaker and author on innovation, creativity and leadership. He has extensive international experience as a business executive and as a speaker in corporate and public events. He also offers workshops and change management consulting for private businesses, NGOs and public organizations.
His model for innovation was published in his book The Art of Innovation© – Integrating Creativity in Organizations and followed by Leading Innovation in Practice™ – a Roadmap for Innovation in Organizations.
Experiences with Dimis are out-of-the-ordinary, designed to have a lasting and practical impact. He blends subject-matter expertise with each individual client’s needs, participants’ energy and … a touch of magic! Contact him at [email protected]