When Is Innovation

What I have learned from observations.

Over the years I have graphic-recorded and facilitated many meetings and strategic ideation session where the topic of innovation arises. Recently, possibly due to the popularity of the idea, innovation constantly emerges as an answer to a problem.

‘In order for us to achieve (X Y Z) we must innovate, be innovative, or become innovative thinkers.’ 

The real challenge is not achieving innovation but what leads up to the innovation for, in my view, an innovation is not ever-present. I believe it does not happen throughout, but at as end moment proof of an endeavor. Innovation is the tangible outcome, not the intangible process.

A colleague far across the big pond, discussed this idea with me on many occasions. We both agree that innovation is originated from discontinuous thinking. It is an outgrowth of difference and not of continued progress. We do slightly divert from the definition however as I feel strongly that part of the misconception in public is the word use outside of its true definition and he sees that it is a bit more about being word semantics. In either case that you may lean-to, it still is an over-used term for everything new or different.

So much distortion has been created that “Innovation” has become a catch-all buzzword and has diluted its value and tense of the action. As I stated, innovation is a past tense word and here is why I think this. Please indulge my thinking for a moment. I will arrive at the importance of this statement shortly. Take a look below at a diagram (The Path To Innovation) I created for an online chat about innovation over a year ago.

Path of innovation

Notice the Path of Innovation flows along the process, but is not truly part of the process. It flows in the background. Above the Path of Innovation is the Path of Thinking. This path runs parallel yet changes slightly once through each node only diverted by an outside resource. The path is not continuous, yet the direction is. Only until both paths pass through “Measure” do we know if the idea is an innovation or that your idea has been proven innovative.

It is not until you measure and prove that the “Idea” is a valued concept can you initiate it into action. This action then has created an innovation or innovative method that changes an old process or product indicating the point of application or implementation is after the innovation has been proven valuable and is adopted. Innovation is then a historic action making an innovation a past tense thing.

Okay, so why all the nonsense of past and present tense of innovation? Simple, for the reason of clarity. Innovation is a thing proven not of an idea conceived. If no proof in action or value is present, something, be object, process or thinking can not be deemed an innovation. If proof dictates innovation, then innovative thinking is then merely creative thinking improperly categorized or misquoted. In essence, creative thinking is an intangible concept, and innovation, which is a proven (past tense), is the tangible product.

So, let’s use the proper words around innovation for the proper application, Creative Thinking, Systems Thinking and/or Happenstance can all lead to Innovation, but are not innovative or innovation of themselves, only something that is proven valuable can be stated as innovative or an innovation.

 

 

 

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