Defining innovation

I was asked recently what I mean when I talk about innovation. That got me thinking  – it’s turned into one of those buzzwords that can either mean lots of different things in lots of different contexts, or conjure up complex ideas or thoughts in different people.

What does innovation mean to me?

In my mind, it’s simply about thinking differently to create a positive outcome with value. It’s not about technology (although often technology is part of an innovative solution), it’s about ideas and execution.

Innovation is borne of process and openness

Actually, scratch the ideas part. To me, innovation is not really about solutions. I’m not denying that great things can come of innovation, but to me, innovation is borne of  process and openness.

Process innovation

  • A new way of looking at things
  • Checking your work, finding the flaws
  • Finding the right problems to solve
  • Don’t get to a solution too early
  • Have a hypothesis or, even better, two

Openness innovation

  • Try and fail, try to fail
  • Be open to external input
  • Expect to pivot at least once early on
  • Don’t deem to know everything
  • Collaborate, even with competitors and especially with detractors

A confession

I actually find the openness approach very scary. I’m often very set in my ideas and opinions, so embracing openness innovation is against my nature, but I try to overcome my innate biases for the good of the project or product. Setting these things aside is probably the greatest challenge for me.

What does innovation mean to you?

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