What's the best definition of innovation?

Innovation isn't just a big idea—it's a journey! From ideation to fruition, innovation spans beyond invention. It's about staying relevant, taking ideas, and nurturing them to full bloom with the right tools, like InnovationCast.

Innovation Management
Carlos Mendes
Carlos Mendes
Co-Founder @ InnovationCast
August 12, 2023

What's The Best Definition of Innovation?

Innovation is a widely misunderstood term. All business leaders acknowledge its importance, but none can agree on what it means exactly. A simple Google search for "innovation" displays millions of results, each one more ambiguous than the last.

Google's definition, "the action or process of innovation"—while not inaccurate—provides little insight on the matter but touches on a key idea: innovation is also a process, not just an outcome.

But alter your search query slightly, and you're confronted with an entirely new definition: "Innovation means coming up with something really new: a big idea." While not false, this definition is an oversimplification and doesn't do justice to the term it attempts to describe. Not all ideas need to be big, and big ideas are generally so from the outset. And it will take a lot more than coming up with ideas to generate value from innovation.

It's a common misconception that innovation pertains only to the act of ideation, and the additional clause, "a big idea," further misconstrues our understanding.

What's the difference between innovation and invention?

Another Google search for "invent" displays the following definition: "To create or design (something that has not existed before); be the originator of." The difference between innovation and invention can be immediately identified by taking a closer look at this definition.

While invention describes the creation of something entirely new, something innovative doesn't necessarily need to meet such criteria.

Firstly, innovation embodies more than the creation of a new thing. New products and services are important, but innovation can be equally witnessed in other faculties, such as human resources and communications, where innovation teams might be looking to streamline processes or redistribute talent.

Secondly, innovations are often incremental improvements to multiple aspects of your business that improve the value of your offering and create a margin over competitors. Generally, groundbreaking product developments are more closely related to short-term gains than long ones.

Ideas are the seeds of innovation

Author and innovation instigator Stephen Shapiro once defined Innovation as "staying relevant," while author and speaker, Paul Sloane, described it as "the implementation of something new."

Already, we start to see some disparity forming between these definitions and the result we discussed earlier about innovation meaning "a big idea." If we accept both of these definitions as true, then we're left with the question: How can you stay relevant with ideation alone?

You can't. Without further action and impact, ideas are meaningless.

Think about the seeds of a tree for a moment. Without adequate water, enough sunlight, the right climate, and quality soil, the seed will remain dormant and eventually die. Ideas are just the same.

Innovation is more than just ideation; there's a process that supports the implementation of that idea before it can be realized. And so, with the right attention, great ideas can germinate and form rudimentary roots that sustain them long-term.

Now all that's left is to nurture them properly. In the corporate world, this might involve multiple incubation processes such as risk assessment, financial impact calculations, and timeframe management to bring the idea to life as quickly as possible.

This strategic end-to-end process is what we call innovation management. And it can be described succinctly with two simple words…

For innovation to happen, there needs to be an actionable system in place that guides an idea to completion. The common difficulty business leaders face is they become so inundated with promising ideas that they don't know how to validate them and move forward. The weight of this challenge causes the entire process to implode.

The importance of innovation management

Organizations all over the world are turning to innovation management software to help structure their innovation activities and capitalize on great ideas more quickly.

InnovationCast is a collaborative innovation management software that centralizes your entire innovation process, enabling you to obtain input from your employees, customers, and other shareholders and consolidate them in one shared space.

Ready to start innovating? Schedule a demo today.