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Definition of Innovation

  • 1.  Definition of Innovation

    Posted 04-16-2020 15:43
    I was listening to The Everyday Innovator Podcast with Chad McAllister interviewing Alex Goryachev, Director of Innovation at Cisco.

    It is an interesting podcast where Alex talks about his new book, Fearless Innovation, and describes a number of case studies of organisations that have created significant value through innovation. They include Lego, Dyson, Wikipedia and TripAdvisor. The full podcast is available here and well worth a listen.

    He mentioned his definition of innovation, which I found quite compelling: "I define innovation as the ability to notice the environment and create and/or respond to change. It's our ability to execute with others and move our organizations forward.​"  Innovation is a much overuse term I find these days, so I think it's important that an organisation agrees on their own definition of what innovation means to them. We recently defined ours as "The application of novel ideas to deliver business value."

    Has anyone else worked on a definition within your own organisation and is willing to share it here?​i

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    Brian Martin
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  • 2.  RE: Definition of Innovation

    Posted 04-17-2020 13:30
    To me, that definition speaks to the overall ability to manage innovation at the level of overall process. Perhaps it is also helpful to reflect on the outcome of this process in terms of the products and services that are created as a result? If so, then the simple definition of innovative products and services is anchored by the degree of meaningful differentiation obtained in the eyes of the targeted customers or consumers.  This allows for a range of innovation from radical (really new products) to modest product improvements. Sometimes it is useful to further sub-divide the essence of the changes into understanding the levels of change in both market targeted (same target, extended market, altogether new market) and change in technology (same, extended, radical).  Taken together, these two dimensions for a 2x2 matrix as portrayed in a classic HBR article by Johnson and Jones published back in the May-June 1957 issue.  There is value in both understanding how to develop sustainable practices to create an enduring innovative organization and in measuring the results achieved in terms of launching successful innovative products in terms of the level of innovation sought in the overall strategic product portfolio.  Thus, innovation can be defined at two levels, process and results. Thomas P. Hustad, founder of Journal of Product Innovation Management and PDMAs 4th president from long ago

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    Thomas Hustad
    Professor Emeritus of Marketing
    Indiana University
    Bloomington IN
    (812) 333-6406
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  • 3.  RE: Definition of Innovation

    Posted 04-20-2020 07:27
    Thanks for responding Thomas and your point is well made - responding to environmental change is well and good, but what of the output in terms of its ability to enable the organisation to differentiate in the market, whether new or existing. I think that's a more precise definition than our own which speaks only to "deliver business value" of whatever kind. I think he meant implicitly that the output would deliver benefit, however, for the point of clarity I agree it is important to focus on the output and not just the process.​

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    Brian Martin
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  • 4.  RE: Definition of Innovation

    Posted 04-20-2020 09:34
    Thomas,

    I agree that context around the consumer is a required component of the definition of innovation.  Here are a few examples:
    • There are corners of the Earth where the original iPod would still be considered innovative if it were presented today
    • Hundreds of low tech ventilators have been developed in response to Covid-19, they sure look innovative to me
    • There must be all sorts of innovations in bidets that the stereotypical American is unfamiliar with that would be well received by a public unable to easily find toilet tissue
    Something that is innovative in one place, at one time, is not necessarily innovative anywhere else at the same or any other time.  If I had never seen the 1957 article you referenced, and it came to me without a date, it would be innovative to me as a consumer of the information.

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    Darren Stoddart
    Senior Director of Innovation and NPD
    BEHR Paint
    Huntington Beach CA
    6369421226
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  • 5.  RE: Definition of Innovation

    Posted 04-22-2020 12:18
    In his "Innovation and Entrepreneurship" Drucker calls innovation "the mean by which [entrepreneurs] exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service." It is a discipline that can be learned and practiced. He continues to define innovation and entrepreneurship a creating "something new, something different" that changes or transmutes value. Creating new and incremental value for customers and markets has been central to my definition of innovation, along with the method or practice of doing that sustainably.

    So Brian, I may expand on your definition and add "new or incremental" value. If you are just replicating value that others already deliver, I do not see that as innovation. [perhaps I am getting too precise with the words here].

    I tend to think of a different HBR article from the September-October, 1957 issue, Igor Ansoff's Strategies for Diversification, and his Growth Strategy Matrix. I see opportunities for innovation not just in Market Penetration (bringing new value to new markets with your existing product or product line), Product Development (bringing new value to your existing markets with new products) and Diversification (bringing new value to new markets with new products), but also in Market Penetration.  If you are able to improve your product and attract a new sub-segment of the market, increase your retention rate, or increase your price (among many options) you are bringing new or incremental value to customers and innovating.

    I had not previously seen Johnson and Jones HBR article (and cannot find it), but I found plenty of references to the approach and I like it.  Thank you for sharing.


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    Grant Hunter
    Chief Growth Strategy Advisor
    Growth Strategy Labs
    Yardley PA
    9084563871
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  • 6.  RE: Definition of Innovation

    Posted 04-22-2020 15:00
    Mr. Hunter,
    Thanks for your posting. Since the HBR article I previously mentioned seems to have attracted attention, I have included below two slides that I incorporate in some of the presentations I have made that extend the concept of the market by technology idea in that article. Incidentally those authors demonstrate the value of interaction among broad sectors of managers/consultants/academics that PDMA has encouraged since its founding. S. C. Johnson descended from the founder of S.C. Johnson and Conrad Jones was a principal at Booz, Allen & Hamilton.  Some of PDMA's early research led to Booz Allen updating one of its early publication on new products management.  Anyhow, here are two slides.  The setting is in a targeted market, just as Mr. Stoddart suggested in his post when he noted that a product familiar in one market may be novel in another.  Obviously both slides are very general and only intended to promote discussion.  Both involve aspects of the core market x technology framing used by Johnson & Jones in their HBR article.





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    Thomas Hustad
    Professor Emeritus of Marketing
    Indiana University
    Bloomington IN
    (812) 333-6406
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