What is Innovation?

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The term innovation has become so ubiquitous it is heard everywhere, to describe almost anything. You see it on TV, newspapers, billboards, for everything from cosmetic products to banking services.

Politicians, professors, businessmen and journalists have also embraced this word and are applying it to a myriad of contexts.

Let’s start by looking at the origin of the word… it comes from the latin “in+novare,” which means “make something new”. Since there are lots of definitions of innovation, let’s start with one that can be applied to
business: “Innovation is a new idea that results in profit”. In other words, innovation facilitates the conversion of knowledge to earnings. It can also be linked with inventions that are converted to market products. So, it is not enough to create something new –the market dynamic is necessary. We can also help to define innovation by stating what it is not: ‘innovation’ isn’t necessarily ‘invention’. It is important to differentiate between innovation and invention: ‘’invention’ is the first emergence of idea, but ‘innovation’ is the first attempt to make it; innovation can also be the usage of an existing invention.

Innovation is not only the production of new products, but also a new way of doing certain things, with the aim of introducing improvement. In the case when invention improves a product, or service, or process, we can say that invention is transferred to innovation. Innovation can be small or big, simple or complex. We can talk about innovation that started with a disruptive idea, but it can also occur when just small changes are done on an existing product that must at least be measurable.

The biggest obstacle to innovation within many organizations is that the company’s culture must be able to accept, and integrate, new ideas from employees.

Innovation is also the application of knowledge to existing problems, and putting ideas to market. There is a different situation with an invention or a discovery; wherein the customer is not the inventor’s primary focus. However during the innovation process, the customer must be the key factor, because innovation works best when has a ‘target’ and a ‘market’. Many companies place employees as the most significant origin of innovative ideas. The next source of innovative ideas must surely be business partners and customers?

It is important that the customer be the focus of an innovation. Looking at the source of ideas, inventions often come from inventors’ effort and can emerge as a result of lengthy experimentation.

With luck, sometimes it is stumbled upon. But for innovation to make a difference, it must be developed, and fully realized. Joseph Schumpeter, a well-known economist from the 20th century saw innovation not as the creation of mind, but of human will.

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