Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Defining Innovation

I've just finished teaching a course called Managing Innovation at the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto.  It's a second year MBA course and I always start the course with a discussion of the real meaning of Innovation.  Most students arrive at the class with a pretty narrow definition of innovation - and for most it centres on technological invention.

My definition is much broader than that and we had an extended discussion about our different views of innovation.  Perhaps it has something to do with me being the professor, but we ended converging on my favourite definition, namely.

I like this definition for several reasons.  I like the use of the word value.  Value doesn't just relate to profit.  The value can arise from cost reduction, or social value, or even a new way of thinking about the world.  So the definition holds for corporations, governments, or non-profits.  If we're going to solve the world's social problems, we're going to need a lot of innovation, so it's important that our thinking about innovation extends to social situations, not just profit-seeking enterprises.

The definition requires you to have more than just a great idea; you have to implement something to create value.  I like that concept of creating value.  An invention alone might not create value, and that's why I would argue an invention is not by itself enough to qualify as an innovation.

I like the use of the word fresh instead of new.  Taking an idea that's been used in one area and applying it to another fits in my definition of innovation.  Fresh captures that idea of taking an idea from one arena to another; I would classify that as innovation too.

This year, we had a particularly spirited discussion about value, and whether something had to have significant and immediate impact to qualify as an innovation.  We concluded that something had to have a measurable impact in order to be considered to deliver value.  It was an thought-provoking discussion.  You always learn from students!

1 comment:

van hire Dublin said...

Interesting post. It is really an informative post. Actually innovation is nothing create new ideas. That's it...