Innovation. It seems like everyone is talking about it these days – and rightly so. But, unfortunately it’s a term that’s being overused to the point of meaninglessness. One should always be afraid when a concept becomes a business “buzzword” – and “innovation” is on the fast-track to attaining that unwelcomed title.
There are several reasons for this current state of affairs. A primary contributor is the variety of definitions permeating the corporate world, popular press, business publications, and the research literature. This lack of a generally agreed upon definition has contributed to significant confusion among those interested in the topic, thus making it challenging to pursue constructive discussions about it.
While not intending to further muddy the waters, I’ve provided definitions collected over the last several years to demonstrate the lack of definitional clarity. They include:
- “…the successful conversion of new concepts and knowledge into new products, services, or processes that deliver new customer value in the marketplace.” (American Society for Quality- ASQ)
- “Innovation is the multi-stage process whereby organizations transform ideas into new/improved products, service or processes, in order to advance, compete and differentiate themselves successfully in their marketplace.” (Baregheh, Rowley, & Sambrook, 2009, p. 1334)
- “Innovation represents the core renewal process in any organization. Unless it changes what it offers the world (product/service innovation) and the ways in which it creates and delivers those offerings (process innovation) it risks its survival and growth prospects.” (Bessant, Lamming, Noke, & Phillips, 2005, p. 1366)
- “…the development and intentional introduction of new and useful ideas by individuals, teams, and organizations…” (Bledow, et al., 2009, p. 305)
- “…the creation of a new product-market-technology-organization-combination.” (Boer & During, 2001, p. 84)
- “…is the creation and capture of new value in new ways.” (LeAnna J. Carey @WomenInnovate)
- “…innovation is the process that turns an idea into value for the customer and results in sustainable profit for the enterprise.” (Carlson & Wilmot, 2006, p. 4)
- “A change in a product offering, service, business model or operations which meaningfully improves the experience of a large number of stakeholders” (Hutch Carpenter @bhc3)
- “…the art of applying creative ingenuity to either solving business problems or creating material value through a product, service or experience.” (Steve Cover @scover)
- “…production or adoption, assimilation, and exploitation of a value-added novelty in economic and social spheres; renewal and enlargement of products, services, and markets; development of new methods of production; and establishment of new management systems. It is both a process and an outcome.” (Crossan & Apaydin, 2010, p. 1155)
- “…adoption of an internally generated or purchased device, system, policy, program, process, product, or service that is new to the adopting organization.” (Damanpour, 1991, p. 556)
- “…the search for, and the discovery, experimentation, development, imitation, and adoption of new products, new production processes and new organisational set-ups.” (Dosi, 1988. p. 222)
- “Innovation is change that creates a new dimension of performance.” (Peter Drucker)
- “Innovation is creativity with a job to do.” (John Emmerling)
- “…a product, process or service new to the firm, not only new to the world or marketplace.” (Hobday, 2005, p. 122)
- “The design, invention, development and/or implementation of new or altered products, services, processes, systems, organizational structures, or business models for the purpose of creating new value for customers and financial returns for the firm.’’ (Innovation Measurement, 2007, p. 18627)
- “People implementing ideas that create new value.” (Innovation Network)
- “Innovation is the creation of a new product, service, or process that provides value for customers and/or other stakeholders.” (submitted by Renee Hopkins @Renee_Hopkins)
- “Innovation is an invention that has demonstrated its’ ability to create value.” (submitted by Eugene Ivanov @eugeneivanov101)
- “A new idea, method, or device. The act of creating a new product or process, which includes invention and the work required to bring an idea or concept to final form.” (Kahn, 2012, p. 454)
- “Innovation is the set of capabilities (individual, company, societal) that allows the continuous realization of a desired future by transforming what is possible into what is valuable for many.” (John Kao @JohnKao)
- “Innovation is executing new ideas to create value.” (Tim Kastelle @timkastelle)
- “Innovation transforms the useful seeds of invention into solutions valued above every existing alternative – and widely adopted.” (Braden Kelley @bradenk)
- “…is the sequence of activities by which a new element is introduced into a social unit, with the intention of benefiting the unit, some part of it, or the wider society. The element need not be entirely novel or unfamiliar to members of the unit, but it must involve some discernible change or challenge to the status quo.” (King, 1992, p. 91)
- “…a viable offering that is new to a specific context and time, creating user and provider value.” (Kumar, 2013, p. 1)
- “…innovation is the conversion of a new idea into revenues and profits.” (Lafley & Charan, 2008, p. 21)
- “Discontinuous improvement.” (submitted by John W. Lewis @JohnWLewis)
- “…the synchronized intersection of a meaningful insight or market need, the new product, service or business model that meets that need, and the communication and commercialization strategy.” (Maddock Douglass @MaddockDouglas)
- “The introduction of transformational change into inherently stable systems from which a user derives meaningful value.” (Andrew Marshall @DrewCM)
- “…the introduction of new products or services that add value to your business.” (Kevin McFarthing @InnovationFixer)
- “…any novel product, service, or production process that departs significantly from prior product, service, or production process architectures.” (McKinley, Latham, & Braun, 2014, p. 91)
- “The act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods” (Merriam-Webster)
- “…the function of an interaction among the motivation to innovate, the strength of obstacles against innovation, and the availability of resources for overcoming such obstacles.” (Mohr, 1969, p. 111)
- “…any policy, structure, method or process, product or market opportunity that the manager of the innovating unit perceived to be new.” (Nohri & Gulati, 1996, p. 1251)
- “Innovation is the process of making changes, large and small, radical and incremental, to products, processes, and services that results in the introduction of something new for the organization that adds value to customers and contributes to the knowledge store of the organization.” (O’Sullivan & Dooley, 2009, p. 5)
- “Innovation = Creativity + Exploitation” (O’Sullivan & Dooley, 2009, p. 8)
- “…is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations.” (OECD, 2005, p. 46)
- “…the transformation of knowledge into new products, processes, and services…” (Porter & Stern, 1999, p. 12)
- “…directed creativity implemented.” (Plsek, 2014, p. 12 @paulplsek)
- “…a change that breaks trade-offs.” (Raynor, 2011, p. 168)
- “Innovation = Invention + Exploitation” (Roberts, 1988, p. 13)
- “…an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or another unit of adoption.” (Rogers, 2003, p. 12)
- “The commercialization of any new product, process, or idea, or the modification and recombination of existing ones.” (Rothaermel, 2013, p. 172)
- “Newness that proves its worth.” (Shane Sasnow)
- “…the practical implementation of an idea into a new device or process.” (Schilling, 2013, p. 18)
- “…the act of generating more value for the customer and the business by fulfilling a job to be done better than anyone else.” (Silverstein, Samuel, & DeCarlo, 2009, p. xviii).
- “…innovation is a process of turning opportunity into new ideas and of putting these into widely used practice.” (Tidd & Bessant, 2009, p. 16)
- “…is the process through which value is created and delivered to a community of users in the form or a new solution.” (James Todhunter @jamestodhunter)
- “…catalyzes positive change in the way we do things and fundamentally alters our views.” (Panteli Tritchew @PanteliT)
- “Innovation = theoretical conception + technical invention + commercial exploitation” (Trott, 2012, p. 15)
- “Innovation is the management of all the activities involved in the process of idea generation, technology development, manufacturing and marketing of a new (or improved) product or manufacturing process or equipment.” (Trott, 2012, p. 15)
- “Innovation is the successful exploitation of new ideas.” (United Kingdom Department of Trade and Industry, 2007)
- “…an invention which has reached market introduction in the case of a new product, or first used in a production process, in the case of a process innovation.” (Utterback, 1971, p. 77)
- “…the process of developing and implementing a new idea.” (Van de Ven, et al., 1999, p. 9)
- “…is anything new that is actually used (‘enters the marketplace’) – whether major or minor.” (Eric von Hippel)
- “…the intentional introduction and application within a role, group or organization of ideas, processes, products or procedures, new to the relevant unit of adoption, designed to significantly benefit the individual, the group, the organization or wider society.” (West & Farr, 1990, p. 9)
- “Change that creates value.” (Doug Williams @DougWilliamsMHD)
- “…any idea, practice, or material artifact perceived to be new by the relevant unit of adoption.” (Zaltman, Duncan, & Holbek, 1973, p. 10)
Which one most resonates with you? If you have additional definitions, please feel free to contact me and I’ll add them to the list.
Baregheh, A., Rowley, J., & Sambrook, S. (2009). Towards a multidisciplinary definition of innovation. Management Decision, 47, 1323-1339.
Bessant, J., Lamming, R., Noke, H. and Phillips, W. (2005). Managing innovation beyond the steady state. Technovation, 25, 1366-1376.
Bledow, R., Frese, M., Anderson, N., Erez, M., & Farr, J. (2009). A dialectic perspective on innovation: Conflicting demands, multiple pathways, and ambidexterity. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 2, 305-337.
Boer, H., & During, W.E. (2001). Innovation, what innovation? A comparison between product, process and organizational innovation. International Journal of Technology Management, 22, 83-109.
Carlson C.C., & Wilmot, W.W. (2006). Innovation: The five disciplines for creating what customers want. New York: Crown Business.
Crossan M., M., & Apaydin, M. (2010). A multi-dimensional framework of organizational innovation: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of Management Studies, 47, 1154-1191.
Damanpour, F. (1991). Organizational innovation: A meta-analysis of effects of determinants and moderators. Academy of Management Journal, 34, 555-590.
Dosi, G. (1988). The nature of the innovative process. In G. Dosi, C. Freeman, R. Nelson, G. Silverberg, & L. Soete (Eds.), Technical Change and Economic Theory (pp. 221-238). London, NY: Pinter Publishers.
Hobday, M. (2005). Firm-level innovation models: Perspectives on research in developed and developing countries. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 17, 121-146.
Innovation Measurement, 72 Fed.Reg. 18627 (April 13, 2007)
Kahn, K.B. (2012). The PDMA handbook of new product development. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
King, N. (1992). Modeling the innovation process: An empirical comparison of approaches. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 65, 89-100.
Kumar, V (2013). 101 design methods: A structured approach for driving innovation in your organization. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Lafley, A.G., & Charan, R. (2008). The game-changer: How you can drive revenue and profit growth with innovation. New York: Crown Business.
McKinley, W., Latham, S., & Braun, M. (2014). Organizational decline and innovation: Turnarounds and downward spirals. Academy of Management Review, 39, 88-110.
Mohr, L.B. (1969). Determinants of innovation in organizations. The American Political Science Review, 63, 111-126.
Nohri, N., & Gulati, R. (1996). Is slack good or bad for innovation? The Academy of Management Journal, 39, 1245-1264.
O’Sullivan, D., & Dooley, L. (2009). Applying innovation. Thousand Oakes, CA: SAGE Publications.
OECD (2005). Oslo manual: Guidelines for collecting and interpreting innovation data (3rd ed.). Paris, France: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Plsek, P. (2014). Accelerating health care transformation with lean and innovation: The virginia mason experience. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Porter, M.E., & Stern, S. (1999). The new challenge to America’s prosperity: Findings from the innovation index. Washington, DC: Council on Competitiveness.
Raynor, M.E. (2011). The innovator’s manifesto: Deliberate disruption for transformational growth. New York: Crown Business.
Roberts, E.B. (1988, Jan-Feb). Managing invention and innovation. Research Technology Management, 31, 11-29.
Rogers, E.M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.
Rothaermel, F.T. (2013). Strategic management: Concepts & cases. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Schilling, M.A. (2013). Strategic management of technological innovation (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Silverstein, D., Samuel, P., & DeCarlo, N. (2009). The innovator’s toolkit: 50+ techniques for predictable and sustainable organic growth. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Tidd, J. & Bessant, J. (2009). Managing innovation: Integrating technological, market and organizational change. (4th Ed). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Trott, P. (2012). Innovation management and new product development (5th ed.). Harlow, England: FT/Prentice Hall.
Utterback, J.M. (1971). The process of technological innovation within the firm. Academy of Management Journal, 14, 75-88.
Van de Ven, A., Polley, D.E., Garud, R., & Venkataraman, S. (1999). The innovation journey. New York: Oxford University Press.
West, M. A., & Farr, J. L. (1990). Innovation at work. In M.A. West, & J.L. Farr (Eds.), Innovation and creativity at work: Psychological and organizational strategies (pp. 3 – 13). Chichester: Wiley.
Zaltman, G., Duncan, R., & Holbek, J. (1973). Innovations and organizations. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.