What is Innovation?

Talking about innovation always opens Pandora’s box (see comments on my post Innovation in Indian Learning Industry).

Wikipedia defines innovation as:

a new way of doing something or “new stuff that is made useful”. It may refer to incremental and emergent or radical and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations.

According to Merriam-Webster, innovation is:

Main Entry: in•no•va•tion

Pronunciation: “i-n&-‘vA-sh&n

Function: noun

1 : the introduction of something new

2 : a new idea, method or device

Another site RealInnovation.com says:

An innovation can be big or small. Brand-new or just a bit different, it doesn’t matter. An innovation can be clearly complex or seemingly simple. Innovations are often thought of in terms of technical achievement, but can also be a design.

An article on America.gov says:

Innovation is invention plus introduction.

Victoria Department of Education and Early Childhood Development describes innovation as:

means coming up with new ideas and approaches that break new ground, push the boundaries and open up new ways of doing things.

I am beginning to think that innovation is relative. Each person is probably innovating in their own ways, some more than others (they find a new way of doing something perhaps). Each organization is innovating (they must, to stay in the business) in different areas like better ways of doing things (process innovation) or just building new products (product innovation) or providing new services. Countries are probably considered to innovate probably when many companies from the country are seen to be innovating.

An important aspect of being innovative is to be seen doing innovation. The larger the scale of comparison, the more impact the innovation must have. As an individual in your organization, if you can get the work done in difficult circumstances, you might be considered innovative. Or if you keep generating ideas and dialog you can be considered innovative, even if the ideas don’t result in a final product. As an organization it is harder. You can start by winning awards in niche segment and be considered innovative in that niche. To be considered innovative globally, the organization needs to have achieved recognition from outside its niche area of operation.

Grand things won’t happen on their own. If I want the organization or the country to innovate, I will start small, start with myself. I will keep innovating in every small thing and won’t wait for the ultimate game-changing innovation to come to me as a spark of brilliance. And I won’t worry about the definitions.

Photo by: