Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I was browsing through my feeds and found this post over at "The Vision Thing" on the definition of innovation and the problems associated with its literal definition. I've reposted my comments here:


Actually the problem you have is with your original definition of
"innovation". Innovation is not as you write "a new development or
invention" rather it is "a new development or invention PLUS
commercialization". This is why invention is necessary for innovation but
not sufficient; hence in your example with adding the potholes, this would not
be defined as "innovation" even in the most literal of senses because there
isn't an element of commercialization to that "invention" of adding the
potholes.

It is probably also important to note the
definition of the "commercialization" aspect of innovation as something that
generates value, which is not necessarily immediately economically measurable
(as with the case of process innovations etc which cannot always be directly
quantified but which still qualify as innovations).

Additionally,
when a company copies something that others in the industry are already doing
but which the company itself has not previously done, this is NOT innovation
(nor is it "internal innovation"). The reason for this is quite simply
that there is no element of invention in this process (remember innovation =
invention + commercialization). For arguments sake it could be
theoretically possible to have two companies developing an identical process
simultaneously and hence both be innovating, however I'm sure that if there
wasn't some slight differences between the two inventions (making both
innovations unique) then the occurrence of such an event would be rather rare
making the point on externally copy cat vs. internally innovative relatively
mute.

In closing you can see by using the correct definition for
innovation we can see that "tossing out any number of “ideas” regardless of
relevance or effectiveness" is not innovation by your standards nor in the
literal sense of the word (no element of commercialization or value added in
that process).

Hope this helps clarify.



What are your thoughts on the issue? Innovation is definatly a term that is over- and improperly used all the time in business. It's a shame since it's so important to the long term viability and survival of firms.
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