Re-Defining Innovation

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“Innovation is not just what is going on in R&D”
– Sen Jen, VP P&G, China.

Sometimes when we talk about innovation the term “invention” is used interchangeably with “innovation” – these two terms are closely related, but they are significantly different. The distinction between these two concepts is a good place to begin understanding what innovation means. Consider the following definitions, which are of the kind you usually find in most business publications.

• Invention is the process of conceptualizing or creating a new product, process or idea.

• Innovation is the process by which value is added to the invention in the market place.

Now, we should stop here for a second to note that these are the two most commonly found definitions out there. These are often used by writers, professors CEOs and others talking about innovation.

When we adhere to this old definition we can understand why we often hear leaders, managers and pundits express their frustrations with the innovation obstacles. Consider the following list of comments:
• You need a lot of money to innovate
• You need to have innovation centers
• You need an innovation department
• You need to be creative
• You first need to take a workshop about ideation and brainstorming

But before we lock ourselves out, we should consider first innovating our way of thinking, (because innovation is a conceptual skill that combines both our creative and our rational, strategic sides), and let’s start by changing our old perception of what innovation is. Consider the following definition: Innovation is change that creates or protects value.

The value may be quantifiable, perceived, tangible or abstract. Even more importantly, the concept of value itself can be innovated – expanded and broadened. In the business world the value may translate into the two well-known resource entities: time and money these are usually identified by the more specific business embodiments such as:
– Faster time-to-market
– Brand value
– Cost reduction
– Lawsuit prevention, etc.

My Definition of innovation?
Innovation is the staging of value and the protection against the loss of value within a humane framework.

– Daniel Montano

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