In a recent blog post proposing a definition of innovation, I noted that innovation means different things to different people. It ultimately is what you think it is. What’s a useful definition for you won’t work for others, and vice versa.
I asked for people’s definitions on several LinkedIn groups, and the community came forward with many interesting and valuable perspectives. For me, the value of this was two-fold:
- Challenge my own perceptions of innovation and expand my horizons
- Understand the different ways people talk about innovation
I went through the many great comments, and pulled out 25 definitions of innovation. I put together a simple map according to their similar characteristics:
The five themes for the definitions are illustrative of the major patterns of thought in innovation. The definitions are presented below. You’ll notice a hash tag (#) after each one. The hash tag is a link to each individual definition, so you can reference a specific one if you’d like.
This is the sense of innovation in the broader context of companies and markets. Innovation’s meaning here is to alter the landscape.
Invention is the creation of something new. In American pop culture, think Thomas Edison, always inventing, inventing, inventing. It’s when an invention becomes useful to others that it becomes an innovation.
Barry Bassnett: Creativity is what happens when imagination has focus; innovation is what happens when creativity has a bottom line; enterprise is what happens when innovation meets ability, entrepreneurship is what happens when all the aforementioned are put on the same cart and passion becomes the fuel. #
The internal spring of innovation: creativity. This sense of innovation reflects our personal, individual roles in it.
Umesh Kumar Aherwal: For me it’s much of artistic way of utilizing available resources within the parameters. The word “artistic way” is stands for the well balanced or proportioned, which requires creative thinking. #
In this meaning of innovation, the focus is on addressing issues and challenges. The existing mode of operation has issues, and a new approach is needed.
Unmet User Needs
This is a classic approach to innovation. It’s very much along the lines of Clayton Christensen’s “job to be done”. The term here is “users”, as the unmet needs may be for customers as well as other people in a system or value chain.
Ellen Weber PhD: An invention or intervention – that shows evidence of a valued solution, garners support of decision makers, and offers mutual benefits for a wider community – by drawing insights from diverse people across several related fields. #
(Cross-posted @ Spigit)