|Photo: Bettina von Stamm|
|Photo: Business Grapevine|
How would you define innovation?
From the mid-90s to 2010, I would have answered that question with “innovation is a frame of mind”, as I had come to the conclusion that innovation happens in the presence of certain values and behaviours.
I still believe this to be true, and I felt that it was no longer enough. Since I embarked on my journey to “understand and enable innovation”, innovation has become such a buzzword that it sometimes worries me. Surely, innovation is the means to an end not the end itself. I also observed that there was a decidedly dark side to innovation: doing something because it is possible, not because it is necessary of brings about positive change.
This is why, since 2010, I have been using the following definition: “Innovation is about choosing the path of change to create value.” Each word was chosen carefully: First of all, it is a choice, a conscious decision to seek change. Anyone who has ever engaged in New Year’s resolutions will be able to attest that change, even if we want to, is not easy; it takes a lot of energy, conviction, courage and patience.
Why do you think business misunderstand innovation?
Perhaps I should counter with the question: “How many do really make an effort to understand what it means?”
In my experience innovation is a mantra in most organisations, yet when challenged why innovation is so important and what exactly it means, they may struggle. A lack of definition is often at the bottom of the misunderstanding. For some, innovation is only the big, world moving change. For some it is some small incremental change. My understanding encompasses both, whereby there is no absolute definition of ‘radical’ or ‘incremental’; in the end it is about how much change needs to be absorbed and what is important is to define different types of innovation in the specific context and for the people who are supposed to innovate together.
Unless such shared understanding is established, people are likely to run off in different directions, leading to disagreement and frustration.
Source: Business Grapevine