The real definition of innovation

Feb 9, 2021 | blog

This episode.

In this first podcast, I’m going to do something that’s incredibly brave. And that is describe innovation. You know, it’s interesting in researching one of my first books nearly two decades ago, I was surprised to find that they were literally 1000s, of definitions of the word, innovation, you know, and certainly, if we can’t find a universal description that’s actionable, that provides real benefit, then we have a serious problem when it comes to innovation. Oh, yes. And we have a serious problem when it comes to innovation. And what I mean by that is that most organizations and most innovators fail, because they haven’t really created a simple and actionable definition that transmutes ideas, and observations into something that has meaningful value to someone else. And you know, after all, that’s really what innovation is all about. And I was even surprised to find that, when you take a look online and look at the top 10 definitions of innovations that actually came up in a search I just did before this podcast, it made me take pause. I mean, how many definitions is there for a I don’t know, toaster? Probably one. So why do we have so many definitions of the word innovation, I think it really goes back to the fact that people try to make innovation plastic, it’s the plasticity of the definition to fit their particular needs. I also find that organizations use the term innovation in a very gratuitous way. In other words, just about every organization has innovation in their mission statement, yet, most of these organizations are far from innovative. It’s not just organizations that fail in defining innovation. It’s also individuals, individual inventors, and designers and engineers. And the truth is, the majority of innovations are bad. In fact, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office, less than 1% of the patents that are filed, and that’s about 3000 per week, ever reach any meaningful commercialization in the marketplace. Isn’t that incredible. And I believe the genesis of innovation failure begins with an actionable definition for going to fix it that is. So in my recent book, The innovation mandate, I spent 40 years defining innovation, much of whiskey, which was from my own failed ideas. So here’s what I believe is definition that you should consider. I believe that innovation is the creation of new value that serves your organization’s mission. And customer. Wow.

There’s really five elements to this definition. The first one is creation, you have to make something, a new process, a new technology, a new software, a new approach, a new government, a new social order, a new community, a new whatever, it’s the creation, we have to create something. The other thing that we have to do is we have to make sure that what we create is valuable. And that and from a perspective of technology, it has to be valuable to enough people for to constitute a meaningful marketplace. We also have to make sure that if we’re doing this, that it ultimately serves the organization, if it’s enterprise innovation, we’re creating something for our company, our company needs to benefit from it. And sometimes these new things that we create in organizations aren’t a product or a service, they’re just a better way to serve our customer. They’re a better way to, to manage processes, I mean, lean methodologies, and Scrum methodologies and new management practices are absolutely innovations if they serve your organization, and the truth of the matter is if they serve your organization, there is a derivative benefit, meaning that oftentimes these improvements in process and so on, also provide a real benefit to the customer. So I think that if we look at this from a very practical perspective, we realize that we have to create something and it has to be valuable. Now before we move on to the next component of the definition of innovation value, is a gradient. There is four areas of value that I listed. In my writings, the first one is incremental value. Now, this is just maybe a better way to do something, or maybe it’s a package that you put your product in so that the consumer doesn’t need a machete to be able to open the package. Right? That’s an incremental improvement, although it may have meaningful impact depending on the particular user. So incremental is another way to look at continuous process improvement. And definitely can can continuous process improvement in quality is an incremental innovation most of the time. Now, you hear a lot of people talking very poorly about incremental innovations as if they’re just simply not worthy or good enough. But you know, incremental innovation is, in fact, the process of continuing to get better. And over a period of time, incremental improvements have major impact to both your organization and the customers you serve. So they’re really good. The other area is what I call landmark innovations, these may be really meaningful improvements to the way in which you have evolved your product, maybe it’s going from entering in a passcode to using your thumb, or maybe it’s going from using your thumbprint to using facial recognition such as the case with the evolution of the iPhone. So these landmark innovations are, you know, somewhat incremental, you could say, because they’re simply a new way to access your device. But they are in many ways landmark, because the methodology is quite better in most cases. The next one is what I call breakthrough innovations. And these are things are just really, really big improvements to a product or service or an organization. And then the last one is what I call disruptive innovations. And disruptive innovations are destructive by nature. In other words, oftentimes, we have to destroy things to rebuild something completely new. So those are the ranges of value. And we want to look at the ranges of value that we create within innovations as a stock portfolio, we want a little bit of incremental little bit of landmark, a few breakthroughs. And at some point, we have to recognize there will be disruptive innovations that we have to accept. Okay, so we know that we have to create something, we know it has to be valuable. And we know that it has to be valuable across a range of that value continuum. But it also has to serve our organization, we have to create things that serve us we have a mission, if we’re a great organization, we have a mission that matters an important mission that’s going to impact society and customers. So it has to serve our mission. And also, and not least of all, it has to benefit our customer, we have to constantly benefit our customer in an evolutionary way. And one of the things I talk about when it comes to customer value is that our value should be both dynamic. And it should be layered. Your value to your customers should be dynamic, and it should be layered. So what does that mean? dynamic means it gets better every day, this morning, when I woke up and I turned on my iPhone, voila, my iPhone was dynamically valuable. There were three new apps that I downloaded that I just had to have, and I didn’t know about it. So it’s getting better all the time. It’s it evolves, it evolves, we have to do that with customer value. The other thing is, it’s layered, it’s layered my iPhone isn’t a phone. I mean, maybe it’s a phone, I don’t know if I’ve uses a phone recently. But it’s a connected node to all the information in the universe. Right. It’s an everything, it’s a communicator, it’s a, it helps me make decisions on where to go and how to get there. And what’s valuable and what’s not valuable allows me to connect to hyper influential social communities to get their opinions. Before I purchase something allows me to press a few buttons and have things magically appear on the front door in the afternoon. That is layered value. So there you go. That is the practical and actionable definition of innovation. Innovation is the process of creating value that serves your mission, and your customer. And one last note, innovation can be a new marketing method. It can be a new educational platform. It can be a new way that we serve customers or students. It can be a way that we serve patients. It isn’t always and most recently is rarely a bright, shiny object. Innovation is the improvements through active observation and creativity applied in a way that has impact. So there you go. Once again, the definition of innovation is the creation of new value that serves your organization and Your customer. I hope you found this very short podcast on the definition of innovation helpful. And don’t forget to stay tuned and subscribe to our podcasts to learn more. Thanks so much for joining me and have an amazing day.

A real human