One of the most common terms that comes up in business development today is innovation. The concept is gaining so much traction, and so quickly, that adoption is now essential to an organization’s sustainability. But what is innovation? We did an analysis of the most popular definitions and found out for you.
What is innovation?
Legend has it that Isaac Newton discovered gravity when an apple hit him on the head. Post-Its, which you probably have a stack of on your desk, emerged when an engineer was developing a powerful adhesive for the aerospace industry. As we learned in our blog’s first foray into the world of innovation, all it takes is one idea to change the world as we know it.
Though it may seem like the world’s greatest inventions came coincidentally, it is the openness to new ideas and the willingness to look outside the box that drives great innovation.
But an innovation is more than an invention. Inventions are static. They are built for lasting impact, yet the product is the same. Innovations, however, generate lasting results that adapt over time to meet a market or consumer’s needs. The innovation yields an organization that inspires and looks forward.
In order to make this crystal clear, we read the top ten highest-ranking articles on the topic so you don’t have to. The results of this experiment gave us seven core terms that, combined, help give us a better sense of what innovation really is.
"What is innovation" currently has 333 million results on Google. That is tens of millions of websites generated by everyday people like us. What do they have in common? They’re all trying to “crack” innovation.
As an innovation venture focusing on digital technology, data is sort of our thing. So it makes sense that we used data analysis to inform and structure our inquiry.
We looked at the top ten search results and analyzed each article for the vocabulary it used to define innovation. Here’s what we learned!
New (77 uses)
At a whopping 77 repetitions, “new” is the most frequently occurring word in the analysis. And for good reason: originality is core to the development of innovative solutions. In order for an idea to succeed, there must be nothing else like it on the market.
And in order to get to that innovative solution in the first place, you need to be willing to reframe the way you look at problem-solving. It’s not just a tangible product or service; it’s a protocol for getting to the bottom of an existing problem.
Change (31 uses)
Change is the next main theme of innovation. Disruption equals change. If everything were to stay the same, there would be no room to revise the way things operate.
Of course, change happens over time. Sometimes, the changes are so small that they barely register. Incremental innovation is still innovation.
Whether it’s in the hierarchy of your company, the product you offer, or your personal task management methods, seeking disruption in your day-to-day can put your company on track to previously unexplored paths.
Business (46 uses)
Another core consideration when it comes to innovation is your business itself.
Making waves takes skill. It requires talent, vision, and resilience. Having a core understanding of the market and customers you serve positions your thinking so you can help your organization stay above water.
There are many ways to innovate your business. New features, intrapreneurial ventures, and investing in your team are great places to start. Don’t forget that the scope of your business—and the bandwidth of your team—factor in to the type of innovation you deliver. Keep in mind that the scale of your business will dictate the reach of your innovative solutions.
More (46 uses)
Innovation is a process. It builds on the pre-existing elements of your company. Expansion is the difference between a business that flounders amid change and a business that rolls with the punches.
There is always more work to be done. Develop a growth mindset as you define your organization’s next steps. How can you push your business one step further?
Perspective (24 uses)
Clarity distinguishes a good idea from a great one. Start small. Focus your efforts on one problem. Then zero in on one solution to that problem.
But don’t fall in love with your solution. Keep your mind open for what the journey teaches you. Pivoting is a common move in innovation projects. It illustrates the wisdom of knowing when to use a different angle to tackle the problem or even to let it go and explore different problems.
People (25 uses)
Your customer is central to problem-solving and hence your business growth. While user-centered design has gained much popularity in recent years, one largely underestimated asset is your own people and team culture.
It takes more than one innovation genius to drive innovation on the rocky roads of unexplored landscapes, and to question and rethink deep-rooted processes and habits. Agility of mind, emotional resilience, pioneering curiosity and open communication are qualities your team must cultivate. That’s how you create solutions that demand attention.
Simple (24 uses)
Keep it simple. Solutions that are easy to understand are solutions that get early adoption.
According to French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Start small. Build on your learnings from those initial blocks.
We said seven, didn’t we?
“Digital” wasn’t a common denominator in our research. But, as great innovation starts by building on the gaps, we decided that “digital” was too critical to be ignored.
Digital advances set the tune of innovations. In fact, Accenture reports that 94% of surveyed businesses and entrepreneurs said that emerging technologies have accelerated the speed of their innovations, with 45% saying it significantly accelerated their innovative pace. Digitalization is not only essential for survival, it sets the pace for your growth and development.
So, what is our definition of innovation?
All of this is great information, but it means nothing if we don’t connect the dots. Indeed, a cohesive story is one of the most important parts of innovation.
Innovation is a continuous, human-centered and change-driven process that both creates value and has impact beyond the business-customer relationship.
Our definition integrates the interpersonal and transformative components of innovation and pushes one step further, centering the value amid those core properties. In innovation, quality will always come before quantity.
Take it to the next level
Jeff McGraff writes, “If you know innovation when you see it, chances are you didn’t see it and you probably don’t know it”. Though people have defined innovation in many different ways, one thing is clear: there is no definitive explanation for innovation. It is exactly this elusive quality that makes innovation a powerful tool.
Ascribing a be-all, end-all definition violates the exact properties that make innovation so valuable. Instead, Having a firm grasp of common themes will help you implement a culture of innovation in your business.
How will you incorporate innovation into your organization’s business practices? Let us know in the comments, or get in touch on LinkedIn.