WHAT IS INNOVATION REALLY?

Posted by in Brand, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Technology

The launch of a new book has had me reflecting on that most overused and misused word in the business lexicon – Innovation…

That book is Jeremy Gutsche of Trendhunter.com book: EXPLOITING CHAOS. Jeremy has kindly allowed me to link to a free download of pages and examples from the book.

It looks really exciting to me – I’ve always enjoyed the more visual business books such as Tom Peter’s The Pursuit of Wow or The Medium is the Message by Marshall Mcluhan and EXPLOITING CHAOS looks extremely enticing.

Some of Jeremy’s ideas and thoughts are powerful. He has created a good resource in this book of examples, ideas and provocative challenges that will help to inspire and stimulate thinking.

I’ve always thought that we should hold a high bar to what we regard in business as innovation. During my corporate career I seemed to be constantly working on the next “innovation” as were my colleagues. I think many businesses use the word to make people feel better about the work that they were doing! A new ad, a new twist on an existing product, a new concept in an existing category – most likely they aren’t going to be an innovation.

In my mind innovations need to meet at least the following criteria:

1. Its a truly new idea or the exploitation of an existing idea into a new context: like the invention of the lightbulb, or the creation of a domestic compact flourescent bulb; or the invention of the telephone or the cellular networks which enabled mobile phones;

2. It delivers something new against a new or existing need meaningfully and for the long term. I think an innovation should have context – it can’t be a good idea for the sake of a good idea.


The Honda hydrogen fuel cell car, for example, I think will be seen as truly innovative over time because it moves us on significantly into new long-lasting territory. Whereas the Toyota Prius won’t stand the test of time because whilst it was a step forward (and a good one), it didn’t fundamentally deliver against the need meaningfully and for the long term (although the harvesting of electrical energy from braking that Toyota developed is an innovation which I suspect will last).

3. It should significantly challenge the existing status quo. The introduction of an offsetting mortgage, much touted as a financial innovation, didn’t meet my bar – it was a good product and clever but not an innovation. Zopa, on the other hand, a marketplace for you and I to lend to each other safely is an innovation – it challenges the exisiting significantly and is truly novel.

The debate over innovation will go round and round. I just hope that more businesses can deliver value against our needs, whether they call it invention, innovation, or just plain old tweaking.

What do you think? As always please feel free to share, retweet, comment and get involved.

And congratulations to Jeremy on the publication of Exploiting Chaos.

Yours

Justin

justin@basini.com
http://www.basini.com/
justinbasini.blogspot.com

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