25 Definitions of Innovation

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:

  1. Challenge my own perceptions of innovation and expand my horizons
  2. 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:

25 Definitions of Innovation

The five themes for the definitions are illustrative of the major patterns of thought in innovation. The definitions are presented below.

Business Model

This is the sense of innovation in the broader context of companies and markets. Innovation’s meaning here is to alter the landscape.

Ray Meads: A patentable solution (external verified uniqueness) with a differentiated business model that changes the basis of business for that specific industry sector.

Julia Fischer Baumgartner: My definition of radical innovation: a new product, process, or system that replaces its accepted predecessor and renders it obsolete.

Avigail Berg: Reorganize the particles with new added components that shift the value to new business opportunities.

Applied Invention

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.

Jatin H. DeSai: Creativity is when you use money to get ideas. Innovation is when you use ideas to make money.

Thomas Mathiasen: Innovation: what is New, Useful and Applied.

Braden Kelley: Innovation transforms the useful seeds of invention into solutions valued above every existing alternative.

Harry Vardis: Ideas that pass through the business model and meet with acceptance by the end users.

Peter Balbus: Ideation is applied knowledge; creativity is applied ideation; invention is applied creativity; and innovation is the successful commercialization or adoption of radical invention.

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.

Creativity

The internal spring of innovation: creativity. This sense of innovation reflects our personal, individual roles in it.

Edson Menezes: Innovation can be a thin line connecting the intuitive, the rational and the market: the gift, the servant and the server.

Robert Bastarache: Value + Creativity + Execution = Innovation.

Lars Christensen: Innovation is to dare to challenge mainstream thinking and behavior pattern.

Robert Jacobson: Innovation is seeing things differently. Implementing innovation is getting others to, also.

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.

Problem-Solving

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.

Madhusudan Rao: Finding Newer & Better bottles to recycle the old wine. End objective remains the same but you want to achieve it in a better way.

Kurt Nahikian: Innovation results when a new approach is applied to an old problem that makes lasting and far-reaching changes in behavior.

Bill Flynn: Innovation is the creation of solutions to problems that have opposing requirements.

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.

Mike Dalton: The organization-wide process of finding and profitably serving unmet market needs.

A Michele Davies: The creation of new products or services which provide value to my marketplace in one form or another, and which use my existing resources.

Uday Pasricha: Something is innovative when it creates a tangible added value for both user/developer; using existing, wasted or yet unnoticed resources.

Hans Haringa: Innovation: ‘something’ used by ‘some’ but opposed by ‘many’ but over time accepted by all.

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.

Saker Ghani: I like the definition used by professors Christian Terwiesch and Karl T. Ulrich in their book, Innovation Tournaments: “A new match between a need and a solution”.

Dick Lee: Delivering exceptional to the most important customer in the value chain, all the time, every time.

Hutch Carpenter: A change in a product offering, service, business model or operations which meaningfully improves the experience of a large number of stakeholders.

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Hutch CarpenterHutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.

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9 Responses to 25 Definitions of Innovation

  1. Pingback: An Innovation Definition « Innovation Leadership Network

  2. Pamela Meyer says:

    Thanks for compiling these! Very useful and thought provoking. I like the creative tension between some of them.

  3. Have you looked at Peter Drucker’s seven sources of innovation?

    In order of importance:

    The unexpected. The unexpected success, failure or outside event.
    The incongruity. The difference between reality as it actually is and reality as it is assumed to be or as it “ought to be.”
    Innovation based on process need.
    Changes in industry structure or market structure that catch everyone unawares.
    Demographics. Population changes
    Changes in perception, mood and meaning
    New knowledge, both scientific and nonscientific.

    If you want more detail, then get the book Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

  4. Pingback: What are the arts of innovation? « ensparq

  5. Tomas Skovgaard says:

    … innovation: new knowledge leading to new solutions…

  6. I like to describe innovation through an old, bad joke.

    Two men are hiking through the mountains of Canada when they stumble upon a hungry, 600- pound grizzly bear. Immediately, one of the hikers takes off his backpack and hiking boots and proceeds to put on his running shoes. The other hiker looks at him and asks, “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a bear!” The first hiker responds, “I know, but I only need to outrun you!”

    This is, from my perspective, innovation. It is not about new products, new processes, new services, or new ideas. It is about staying one step ahead of your competition so that you are not eaten. And often, when trying to outpace the bear (your current competition), you run into an even more dangerous predator (a new entrant).

  7. Pingback: 5 min. | Pearltrees

  8. Pingback: What is Innovation? « Innovation Leadership Network

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