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What happens if you ask a group of so-called innovation experts about their definition of innovation? 

Nick Skillicorn did this and he gathered the answers in an interesting blog post that shows how vastly different even topic experts see the term “innovation”. 

Here are some examples:

Steven Shapiro:

”Very simply put, innovation is about staying relevant. We are in a time of unprecedented change. As a result, what may have helped an organization be successful in the past could potentially be the cause of their failure in the future. Companies need to adapt and evolve to meet the ever changing needs of their constituents.” 

Gijs van Wulfen:

“An innovation is a feasible relevant offering such as a product, service, process or experience with a viable business model that is perceived as new and is adopted by customers.” 

Kevin McFarthing:

“The introduction of new products and services that add value to the organisation.” 

Paul Hobcraft:

”The fundamental way the company brings constant value to their customers’ business or life and consequently their shareholders and stakeholders.” 

Paul Sloane:

“Creativity is thinking of something new. Innovation is the implementation of something new.”

I was also asked to contribute to this experiment and this is my quote: “I try not to define ’innovation’ as we should tone down our use of the word and term.”

 

If you follow my work, this is no surprise. I believe we need to tone down the use of the word and the term, innovation, and we need to stop using the term “innovation culture” entirely. 

On the latter, it is just impossible to create a strong innovation culture, when no one seems to be able to agree on the meaning of innovation. As Nick clearly revealed with his experiment, we have different views even among a group of experts, and I hope you trust me when I say that this problem of having different views and thus a lack of language and understanding around innovation is even worse in large companies and organizations. We need to build strong cultures, but don’t fall into the trap of calling this innovation culture. 

However, I am also on a learning journey myself since I started my “crusade” against our usage – or misusage – of the terms. I had a session in New York recently, where the audience provided some compelling views that the term “innovation” is still quite popular among consumers. Thus, it still appears in sales and marketing efforts towards B-t-C target groups although I did get a fairly strong consensus that the work force in many places are fed up with the terms.

This makes me believe that we will see a similar sentiment among consumers in the coming years. They are also tiring on innovation. This raises a big question. What comes next? 

Here, I believe that we need to look into an evolution of the terms. On a personal level, I am fond of the term “transformation”. As everything happens faster and faster, we see more and more changes to our business and corporate environments. Thus, we need to transform into something else. We don’t really know what this should be, but my guiding light here is that strong companies and organizations in the future do four things very well – and better than their competitors: 

  1. They listen better
  2. They adapt to what they hear, see and learn
  3. They are willing and able to experiment to get the best structures in place based on this
  4. They execute better than anyone else.

 Thoughts?

In addition to this thoughts of Stefan, we asked our crowd of experts at our yearly innovation conference "Innovate" in 2018 to describe innovation in only one word. In the end, we had 22 different answers:

All these meanings are the proof for the diversity and variety in innovation. That's exactly the reason why we never get bored and love working in the field of innovation. ♥ 

Feel free to leave a comment below with the word which you would use to describe your definition of innovation. ↓

 

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in July 2016 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Stefan Lindegaard

Stefan Lindegaard

I am a Copenhagen-based author, speaker and strategic advisor who focuses on the topics of open innovation, innovation management / culture and the people side of innovation (the mindset and skills you need for innovation today). I believe innovation requires an open and global perspective and I have given talks and worked with companies in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.

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