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| On 01, Jan 2010

Message: 108
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Tuesday, 2nd January 2007

I have been interested in the activity around “innovation” since getting asked to leave the AIT innovation discussion (after being invited in) at the ISSSP conference this last summer. I have never had an issue with our deployments (SS) coming up with what I considered inovative solutions and then I saw the piece from the “expert” at the Wall Street Journal but you have to consider they aren't paid to present a balanced picture just get some emotions stirred up so the sell more papers. Just a little more motivation.

After a few months of some reading around the issue I am pretty convinced that there is a multitude of definitions for “innovation” and if you search the web you can find some official sounding definition that will support just about any definition you decide to have as your favorite.

Step 2 was to go to the official innovation web site and find out what the experts said. It didn't changed much. Some examples:

From the website – “Innovation – What is innovation?”

It is important to be clear as to what innovation is not. Innovation is NOT invention, even if invention is the mother of necessity. These two words are sometimes used interchangeably, but although connected they are not the same. An innovation is the extension of an invention.

If an inventor discovers the Ònext big thing,Ó but is unable to find anyone to produce it, then the next big thing remains undiscovered to the world.For this invention to become an innovation, a public needs to be introduced to the invention and have said invention improve their lives in some way.


From the website – “Innovation – What is innovation?”

“…an innovation’s impact determines its qualification.”

(Obviously my cut and paste abilities need some innovation) From these two comments in a featured article on this website we have the requirements of introduction to the public, impact and a positive effect. the positive effect I don't buy. We have seen plenty of innovative pharmaceuticals introduced to the public and the litigation that follows certainly isn't over the positive effects.

Then we look up, on this site, the definitions of innovation, creativity, and invention and we get:

Innovation1 : the introduction of something new 2 : a new idea, method or device


InventionA new idea, product or process


CreativityThe production of something new


Ok where did the impact and positive requirements go? Regardless of the warning in the article that invention and innovation were different the definitions may make them look like suitable substitutes for each other depending on what you choose.


This is not meant to be a criticism of this site. We can to the same thing with most of the literature around “innovation” which is opening the door to some very odd information. It is like trying to listen to a bunch of people having a conversation and everyone is speaking a different language.


After that long and tedious rant – who has the real definition of innovation, creativity and invention?



Message: 110
Posted by: Tim Kelley
Posted on: Wednesday, 3rd January 2007

To answer your question directly, innovation is likely in the eye of the beholder.  “Innovation” clearly lies within the broadest definitions you discuss.  But some of the narrower definitions overlook/miscast the results of many activities.  Publicity and positive effect are not requirements.  For example, applying a technique, which is known to work in one circumstance, into an another circumstance can be innovative.  To take the example further, even if the technique is not optimum, learning the pluses and minuses of the application can lead to innovation. 

I heard a pretty good story applying innovative techniques over the holidays – apparently a guy comes into the ER with a shotgun-produced wound to the belly.  Lots of bleeding caused by lots of pellets.  The ER doc, recognizing that there is nothing he could do using traditional methods to apply pressure the wounds, went out to his car and retrieved a couple cans of foaming insulation ordinarily used to fill electical outlets, cracks in foundations, and the like.  The doctor filled the patient's body cavity with the foam, thereby applying pressure throughout.  He then fixed one wound at a time, chipping away the foam piece by piece.  This approach probably will not be adopted broadly (little impact?), but nevertheless is brilliant innovation. 

Message: 112
Posted by: Michael S. Slocum
Posted on: Wednesday, 3rd January 2007

These definitions are directly from Merriam-Webster:

Innovation: (noun) the introduction of something new, a new idea, method, or device (novelty)

Creativity: (noun) the quality of being creative, the ability to create

Invention: (noun) discovery, findingproductive imagination, a device, contrivance, or process originated after study and experiment, the act or process of inventing

I would then make the following distinctions for our specific purposes:

An invention is a product of substance that meets some set of societal needs and would be the product of creativity.

An innovation is a concept or idea that may be embodied in an invention or may only be in the conceptual phase. An innovation is the product of creativity.

Creativity would then be the composite ability to innovate and/or invent. 

Message: 115
Posted by: Jack Hipple
Posted on: Thursday, 4th January 2007

Interesting points!  I find, despite many years of discussion about this by many people, that there is no commonality in these definitions.  I have even seen the use of the words innovation and creativity transposed by some people (creativity being the commercial implementation after the “innovation”), causing a major communication disconnect. When discussing or working with someone, getting these terms straight is important.  Having said this, the most common definition of innovation that I have seen, and use myself, is the COMMERCIAL implementation of a new idea or concept.  It is not enough to just have a practical concept.  If “practical” doesn't include the useful, profitable implementation of an idea, it's not considered innovation by most organizations I deal with.

Other experiences from anyone?

Jack Hipple, Innovation-TRIZ, Tampa, FL

Message: 116
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Thursday, 4th January 2007


Very pragmatic response. I have trouble with the requirement for positive effect. The public part may have some merit other wise you have innovation for the sake of innovation and I am not sure that is where we need to go.

Great example. In true US fashion you have to wonder how many attorneys have approached the guy to file a malpractice suite.


Message: 117
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Thursday, 4th January 2007

Why did you choose Merriam-Webster? Here is the problem with using an off the shelf definition. There are a lot of shelves: