Discussions about innovation are often made difficult because people are unclear about the exact meanings of some key terms. In particular there is confusion about the difference between creativity, innovation and invention. Let us start with some definitions:
- Invention is the creation of something that has never been made before and is recognised as the product of some unique insight.
- Innovation is the implementation of something new.
- Creativity is the capability or act of conceiving something original or unusual
If you have participated in a brainstorming meeting and dream up dozens of new ideas then you have displayed creativity but with out follow up in terms on delivery then there is no innovation until something gets implemented. Somebody has to take a risk and deliver something for a creative idea to be turned into an innovation. An invention might be a product or device or method that has never existed before. So every invention is an innovation. But every innovation is not an invention. When your company first published its website that was a major innovation for the company even though many other websites already existed, or AppIe Ipad -> Ipad2.
Most tend to think of an innovation in terms of a a new product but this can also be with a new process, method, business model, partnership, route to market or marketing method, Innovation covers a wide latitude of areas to consider. Indeed every aspect of your business operation is a candidate for innovation. Peter Drucker said, ‘Every organisation must prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.’ So do not restrict your vision of innovation to products. Some of the most powerful innovations you can make are in business methods and customer services. If we look at companies like Dell, eBay and Amazon we see that their great innovations were with their business models rather than in new products. We ourselves help organisations to understand their business model and to think differently about these.
Inovations can be incremental or radical. Every improvement that you make in products or services is an incremental innovation, a step by step layer approach building on the success (or failures) of the previous. Most businesses and most managers are good at incremental innovation. They see problems in the current set-up and they fix them. Radical innovations involve finding an entirely new way to do things. As such they are often risky and difficult to implement. Most larger organisation’s are poor at radical innovation, they are risk adverse, they prepare to deal with the current status quo and what is currently their cash cow revenue generating product or service. If you had been making records then you could have introduced incremental innovations in your design and marketing. However if this was your strategy then a radical innovation, CD’s, would eventually kill you. The CD manufacturer could similarly introduce various incremental improvements. Once again a radical innovation, music downloads over the internet, would make your offering obsolete, as we see with various retail chains like HMV & Jessops (Camera & Photography). Both have recently ceased trading and or are in court protection / administration. So we need to constantly look for incremental innovations and radical innovations. We need to develop creativity and turn it quickly into innovation.