What is innovation?
Most of the people making this search are most likely in charge of leading an innovation effort, or at the least, participating in one, and feeling that they need more information to be able to succeed. However, this begs the question – why are those in charge of innovation googling how to do their jobs? Why isn’t this question being answered long before leadership is given?
How does Google define innovation?
Let’s start by seeing how Google defines innovation:
- The action or process of innovating
- A new method, idea product etc.
As you can see, not very helpful. What about business.gov.uk?
- Innovation generally refers to changing or creating more effective processes, products and ideas, and can increase the likelihood of a business succeeding. Businesses that innovate create more efficient work processes and have better productivity and performance.
Getting better. But still, probably not what most people are looking for. Surely the Oxford Dictionary will have something helpful?
- Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.
As you may have noticed, definitions for innovation can be ambiguous at best. But this is less due to poor definitions, and more to do with the fact that ‘innovation’ as a term is ambiguous.
Innovation as a buzzword
Innovation has been used as a buzzword for a while now, but now it’s a priority. In a recent study, we found that:
- 79% of respondents ranked innovation as a top 3 priority at their company
Combine this with the innovation searches, and we can conclude that there are many organisations not knowing how to innovate, just knowing that they have to do it. This has led to there being a multitude of different explanations, leading to confusion of those new to the subject.
Define innovation for yourself
But the ambiguous nature of the term is by no means a bad thing. In fact, we think it should drive people towards finding the right definition – their own.
This doesn’t mean that there’s no clear answer. Instead, think of it less as a definition, and more as a formula for you to complete. You can use a set structure to create your own personal definition, but you’ll have to fill in the blanks yourself.
The best way to define what innovation means to you is to see what the current state-of-play is within your organisation. Maybe you’re innovating in some areas already, but there are no clear communication lines to hear about it. Maybe you’re innovating with an incorrect assumption as to what innovation truly is.
Many organisations see creating new ideas as innovation. But new ideas aren’t innovations, they’re inventions and understanding the difference between the two can be critical.
Invention vs Innovation
It’s important to understand the difference between invention and innovation:
Invention is a good thing, but an invention only becomes an innovation when it answers yes to the questions in the diagram above:
- Is your idea new? If the answer to this is yes, then you have an invention, but not necessarily an innovation.
- Is your idea useful? And does it solve a genuine business problem? Where no problem exists, you may have developed a new novel idea, but this still falls into ‘invention’. However, if you have found a solution to an observed, identified, articulated or unarticulated problem, then you are more than likely innovating.
- Is your idea affordable? Innovative solutions not only solve a problem but do so with a target market in mind. This means your solution needs to be accessible and affordable. Remember, affordable doesn’t automatically mean cheap, it just means that the solution cost is relative to the size of the problem and the target market that it is designed for, whether internal or external.
- Is your idea doable? All of the above questions are only relevant if the solution is achievable, and will generate a return.
So maybe innovation isn’t something that can be defined generically, but there is definitely a way to work out whether a solution is an innovation or not:
“Innovation-led growth only arises when genuinely creative solutions to real problems meet clever business models and fantastic execution”
And while we might not be able to define innovation for your organisation, what we certainly can do is show you what it means to us, to help you translate:
“Innovation at Wazoku is very much defined within the context of our EveryDay Innovation philosophy. To us, innovation is very much about enabling great ideas that genuinely enhance the overall customer experience and move the business forward, whether in product, process or overall business model to find a voice and deliver this value. Innovation is a part of our culture.“
At Wazoku, we believe that you can’t drive innovation as a capability across an organisation if you can’t have a clear conversation about what it is, so that everyone can contribute. This is why one of the very first questions on our new innovation benchmarking tool – Innovation Pulse is ‘What is your organisation’s definition of innovation?’.
So, the answer to ‘what is innovation?’, can’t be found in Google. It can be found within your own organisation. Once defined, it’s important that the definition is understood and communicated throughout the business.