Hutch Carpenter just wrote a nice post outlining 25 different definitions of innovation. This is an interesting exercise. He breaks the definitions down into five sub-categories, which all reflect slightly different takes on the nature of innovation.
I find this interesting because I frequently hear people discount the importance of innovation by saying that it is just a buzzword. As evidence, they talk about how it means something different to every person that uses it. In this short video, I get some help from my new kitten Schumpeter in trying to explain why this is so, and why this does not actually reduce the importance of innovation:
There are a couple of key points here:
- I define innovation as: executing new ideas to create value. All three parts are important – to innovate you have to do something new, you have to actually execute the idea, and doing so must create value.
- Innovation is a top-level definition – which means that it has multiple sub-categories. The analogy that I use in the video is that “innovation” is equivalent to “birds”. The category of “birds” includes a range of animals from penguins to peregrine falcons. In the case of those two types of birds, they are extremely dissimilar, yet we still call them both birds. This is because they share a number of traits which tell biologists that they belong in the same order.
- People often say “innovation” when they actually mean one of the sub-categories. When one person means “radical technological innovation” while another means “incremental process innovation”, it is confusing. This is why some people think that “innovation” doesn’t have a real meaning, because it is actually used to mean many different things.
If there is a gap between where you currently are and where you want to be, the only way to bridge it is by doing something new. Innovating. That’s why innovation is important, and why it’s more than just a buzzword.
I guess one other lesson from all of this is that squirmy kittens make poor co-stars…