What is Innovation? – Moving Beyond the Hype and Myths
The question ‘What is innovation?’, is often surrounded by a lot of hype and mystique.
Because of this, innovation is often misunderstood.
This can be tremendously detrimental to those wanting to get started on their innovation journey and should be avoided at all costs.
Instead, the answer to ‘What is Innovation?’ should be relatively simple and practical.
Creativity + Implementation
What is Innovation? – The Detail
‘What is innovation’ – It’s a process that involves applying ideas and knowledge in creative ways to generate value.
Creativity is the process of creating new and useful ideas, and innovation is the process of the commercialisation of those creative ideas into new value.
Value is something that makes someone’s life better and in the context of a business, can be provided at a profit!
Innovation is driven by creativity and the ability to capitalise on knowledge and needs by providing value in a commercially viable manner.
It’s focused on developing and applying creative ideas that result in increased value (to you and others) in the form of:
New ways of doing business
Improved products and services
Entirely new business models
When it comes to creating long-term success, innovation needs to become an ongoing business process – a core business competency that allows you to continually create value and stay ahead of the game!
What Is Innovation? - The Hype
Innovation isn’t rocket science!
Occasionally, innovation involves coming up with creative ideas that haven’t previously existed. However more often than not, creativity and the process of innovation involve the recombination of old ideas and applying them in new ways or to different situations.
In fact, the recombination of existing ideas is responsible for the ‘lion’s share’ of the value created by today’s innovators.
You shouldn’t view innovation as having to involve new to the world ideas or ‘rocket science’. This mindset will put innovation beyond your reach and inhibit your long-term success.
Rather, it should be understood that existing ideas or innovations that have not previously been adopted by your business, when appropriately implemented, is innovation if you are creating and capturing new value!
Myth 1: Its Invention
When considering the question ‘What is Innovation?’ it’s worth noting that it’s not just coming up with good ideas or inventing something.
It’s the process of moving ideas or inventions from an initial idea or concept into practical and valuable use.
Accordingly, innovation includes the process of capturing value from creative ideas – or more broadly – it’s the commercialisation of creative ideas.
It requires an understanding of the creative processes needed to generate new ideas and the ability to marshal the resources and capabilities needed to transform those with commercial value into practical use.
Myth 2: It’s Research and Development
Research and development relate to the development of new ideas and knowledge, but it isn’t the process of commercialising them. It’s only a part of the overall innovation process and by itself, may not result in commercial value.
In contrast, innovation involves searching, selecting, implementing and capturing value from knowledge and ideas.
Without a process or ability to transform ideas and knowledge generated by research and development into commercial success, it doesn’t amount to innovation or drive business growth, profits and value.
Myth 3: It’s the Eureka Moment
Contrary to popular belief, innovation rarely occurs in the form of a single idea or ‘light bulb’ moment.
Rather innovation usually results from much concerted effort over time – it emerges as thoughts collide and gestate (often over long periods).
Innovation involves the generation of many ideas followed by an elimination process, typically through experimentation or trial and error.
The elimination process serves to narrow the options for further ongoing development and refinement, until the idea emerges as a practical and valuable solution.
Accordingly, innovation is best viewed as a process of learning from failure (preferably quickly and cheaply) that can be developed into knowledge and ultimately, commercial value.
The highly popularised epiphany is a myth and a destructive mindset to have (it leads to the view that innovation is not a repeatable process).
Dispensing with the Hype and Myths – Managing Innovation
To sustain competitive advantage and maximise business growth, profits and value, innovation is a process that must become a core business competency.
Without innovation, competitive advantage and above-average performance are short-lived.
Innovation needs to be more than a one-off event. It rarely comes from a single epiphany and involves much more than just invention or research and development.
Innovation is a relatively simple concept, but it needs to become a process that is managed and honed into a core business competency!