Friday, April 25, 2014

'Innoveracy" and the Definition of Innovation

But there is another form of ignorance which seems to be universal: the inability to understand the concept and role of innovation. The way this is exhibited is in the misuse of the term and the inability to discern the difference between novelty, creation, invention and innovation. The result is a failure to understand the causes of success and failure in business and hence the conditions that lead to economic growth.
Horace Dediu has some interesting thoughts on innovation and how people understand it - or, specifically, how we misunderstand it. As seen in the quote above, he compares this ignorance of innovation to illteracy and innumeracy, concepts that are, by their nature, less abstract: you can read and write or you can't, you can work your way through simple numerical problems or you can't. But how do you know if something is innovative? If it's new? If it's creative?

Dediu applies his own definitions and hierarchy for novelty, creation, invention, and innovation. He posits that if, as claimed, Nokia had an "innovative tablet" in 2001 that wasn't even released, nevermind successful, that it perhaps wasn't all that innovative to begin with, just a novelty or creation.

I find this discussion particularly interesting because "innovation" is such a buzzword that it seems to have lost its meaning. I think Dediu is correct that all too often "innovation" is conflated with "new." It's really hard to be innovative in a field, and it should be. It's a concept that shouldn't be watered down by low expectations or a desire for something that's novel for novelty's sake. We should strive for the leaps in lifestyle, application, or way of thinking toward which innovation should necessarily drive us.

And then, of course, you have things that are arguably innovative being shot down by the old guard because "innovation" also often means - for good reason - "disruptive." If we understand what exactly makes something innovative, we'll be able to properly reward and propagate such ideas for the betterment of all.

via Asymco

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