Defining Innovation


How do we define innovation? Well, if we consider some of the official definitions out there we may consider the following (from wikipedia):

  1. the act of introducing something new: something newly introduced (The American Heritage Dictionary).
  2. the introduction of something new. (Merriam-Webster Online)
  3. a new idea, method or device. (Merriam-Webster Online)
  4. the successful exploitation of new ideas (Department of Trade and Industry, UK).
  5. change that creates a new dimension of performance Peter Drucker

In Innovation Strategies I defined innovation as: the staging of value and the conservation of value.

I had come to the realization that innovation was not so much about something being “new” but as something being perceived as valuable. Just to make sure we’re on the same page – by value I mean value in the most abstract conceptual way and not purely as its financial definition.

In other words, if a designer improves an interface by making it easier to use s/he has delivered value to the end user – this is an example of innovation.

On another hand, if a human factors specialist acknowledges the potential for a laptop to catch on fire and tests this to prevent and minimize the risk s/he has conserved value by preventing lawsuits andor injuries.

A new idea/product/service is not necessarily valuable.

While this definition may be functional in the business world my private definition is different. I realized that “blind value” has some issues. I realized that by this definition acts like slavery could be considered innovative. So, I had to align my personal definition with high-level humane goals such as socially and ecological sustainable goals.

I encourage you to come up with your own definition of innovation.


One thought on “Defining Innovation

  1. Interestingly, I had decided that it was important to ponder on this basic yet essential question from the very beginning on the innovation blog I had just started a few days back ( I think it’s one of those things we intuitively know but may have trouble expressing with the same level of clarity. Further, I challenged myself to express it as succinctly as I possibly could. Here is one of the shortest definitions I came up with so far: “practical creativity”.

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