The conversation is… What is innovation?

What is innovation?

OK, this is a tough one. There are a million interpretations of the definition of innovation and innovative products and doing innovation. Let’s get the premise out of the way —in my opinion, I’d argue many of them are incorrect (or not fully formed).

Fallacious reasoning

First, I want to talk about fallacies, which will give context to why I believe we so often incorrectly define or categorise innovation.

The fallacies of innovation

Process

Newness

Innovation — (re)defined

It’s one thing to say innovation is about building new things, but that’s not to say that every new thing is innovative — it’s a fallacy, much like the fallacy of authority.

The context

Innovation is…

An outcome

You cannot do innovation and you cannot be innovative. Instead, focus on making great products and services and create the environment for your team to have great ideas that could potentially be the next big innovation.

Not self-proclaimed

Similar to the first one, you can’t say you’re innovative. The market tells you that you’re innovative, or more accurately, that your products or services are innovative. Since it’s outcomes, your outcomes speak for you.

Retrospective

Since it’s an outcome, innovative things can only be decidedly innovative after they’re done. Too many companies and articles proclaim a new innovation in the alpha stage for marketing and then it never launches or it doesn’t achieve its set out results.

Solves problems

Back to the fallacy of newness — just because something is an invention doesn’t make it innovative. It has to actually solve problems.

Provides material change

This is my favourite criterion. This is the stretch target.

Widely used

Any innovation needs to be accepted and adopted — an invention that never makes it past the garage isn’t an innovation, it’s just a hobby. I think back to the inventor father in Gremlins and his all-in-one business-person travel kit that no one wanted to buy.

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