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What Isn't Innovation

What Isn’t Innovation

| On 01, Jan 2010

Message: 903
Posted by: Andrea
Posted on: Monday, 23rd July 2007

I get so tired of seeing the word innovation applied to things that are not innovation. Anyone else?

My favorite recent example? A magazine that said cooking with margarine was innovative. What? It's just a different ingredient! Innovative and food related? I can't think of anything after the microwave. Anyone else?

Message: 908
Posted by: Kelly
Posted on: Monday, 23rd July 2007

I just did a quick search on Google News and found an article in the Chicago Tribune that has a quote about the “innovative philanthropic support of Chicago jazz.”

It doesn't go into details but my guess is that its far more creative –maybe unusual–than innovative! I can't think of anyway that philanthropy has undergone any fundamental change. People give money. Groups get money. Yes?

Message: 1049
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Thursday, 26th July 2007


That begs the original questions concerning the definition of innovation. You are differentiating between creativity and innovation. By some definitions of innovation you cannot be innovative without being creative.

There has been a fairly long discussion about the iPod being innovative. As a device that plays music the answer has to be no. The sales numbers say there is something different about it. The innovation probably lies there rather than with the product unless of course the definition of innovation says it can only apply to hardware.

I don't see anyone rushing to get the definition simply because it is convenient to not have one. Once it is defined them the marketing of products and services gets truncated and there is to much vested interest in the ambiguity.

Just my opinion.

Message: 1055
Posted by: Clay Leonard
Posted on: Thursday, 2nd August 2007

I'm watching Shark Week on Discovery and the show I'm watching now said that the scientists used an innovative new camera.

Maybe inventive, but innovative? It's such an overused term these days. Soon it will have no meaning at all.

Message: 1056
Posted by: QualityColorado
Posted on: Friday, 3rd August 2007

Clay and everyone, Good afternoon!

Like anything that proves to be useful, the term “innovation” is starting to get many meanings, depending on the context.  However, I don't believe that means we just throw up our hands and abandon the term to our profession's equivalent of political pundits.

I think we need to borrow the concept of “operational definitions” from Six Sigma / Quality.  I believe the term  “innovation” can still be useful, but only if we get a good “operational definition” for it, in whatever orgnaizational context we are working in.

… your thoughts? …

Best regards,


Message: 1061
Posted by: Andrew B.
Posted on: Monday, 6th August 2007


Do you mean something comparable to Six Sigma in one organisation as DMAIC and in another as DMAIIC?

– Andrew B.

Message: 1063
Posted by: QualityColorado
Posted on: Tuesday, 7th August 2007

Andrew, Good morning!

I had not thought about it, but that's something similar. DMAIC is used in some organizations, where the “I” (Improve) includes both developing the improvement and implementing it. In other organziations, there are 2 “I”'s: one for designing the improvement, and the other to emphasize actually implementing it.

… operational definitions that make sense to the organization …

Best regards,


Message: 1064
Posted by: Belinda
Posted on: Tuesday, 7th August 2007

Mike and all:

Finding a definition may be messy because the word innovation is used for so may different things.  Also we tend to mix up creativity, invention and inno


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Look up Innovation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

The classic definitions of innovation include:

  1. the process of making improvements by introducing something new
  2. the act of introducing something new: something newly introduced (The American Heritage Dictionary).
  3. the process of translating new ideas into tangible societal impact (Krisztina Holly, Vice Provost, University of Southern California, and Executive Director of USC Stevens Institute for Innovation)
  4. the introduction of something new. (Merriam-Webster Online)
  5. a new idea, method or device. (Merriam-Webster Online)
  6. the successful exploitation of new ideas (Department of Trade and Industry, UK).
  7. change that creates a new dimension of performancePeter Drucker (Hesselbein, 2002)
  8. A creative idea that is realized[(Frans Johansson)] (Harvard Business School Press, 2004)
  9. “The capability of continuously realizing a desired future state” ([John Kao, The Innovation Manifesto, 2005] )
  10. “The staging of value and/or the conservation of value.” (Daniel Montano 2006.)[1] vation.  The following is how it is defined by wikipedia:

It seems to me there is a great variation and many uses of the word.  Mybe we want to make the word mean something smaller and less complex than it really is.  I am not sure that means that the word is any less meaningful or powerful if used in this many different ways.  I believe the important thing to remember when using it is to give a meaningful context.

Message: 1075
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Tuesday, 14th August 2007


I responded to a post like this in an earlier string.

I am not sure why Wikipedia would be the final word on the definition. I can pretty much find a definition to suite anything I am doing.


Message: 1076
Posted by: Belinda
Posted on: Tuesday, 14th August 2007


What if all the definitions are correct?  Who do you believe is the final authority on the definition of innovation?

My point was about the importance of context as well as definition. Many words have various meanings but that doesn't take away from the power of the word.

Good dialogue. I am interested to hear what you think.


Message: 1079
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Wednesday, 15th August 2007


If you read them all they cannot all be correct. There are some distinct differences in what innovation does and does not include per the definitions. Personally I have no stake in the outcome since my consulting business does not include innovation beyond the innovation that I believe happens during a SS project.

I am not sure any of it means much beyond the efficiency of communication. There is an intended result that someone wants and if that does or does not fit the definition. The real advantage to the confusion belongs to the people selling innovation to the people who don't really care what it is but just want to be in on the latest buzz word.

I am not as sure about the context being as important as understanding the result you want in terms of youre business. When that person stands infront of you selling “innovation” you need to ask “what does that mean?” and if that answer doesn't match the result you want you end the discussion right there.

Just my opinion.


Message: 1080
Posted by: Belinda
Posted on: Wednesday, 15th August 2007


I love your last comment about asking what do you mean by innovation and using the results you are looking for as the determinant of whether the “innovation” is something that is needed.  I also believe it is important to ask,” what do you mean by that “or, ” what does innovation look like to you?”  The only thing I would caution against is assuming that just because it hasn't been “proven” that it isn't worthy of investigation. Also, the results we are looking for have to be based on something, too  True innovation many times will take us in a different direction than we originally thought we were going.  If something is really new, how can we know what potential it has until someone tries it?  I believe all innovations are looked at with suspicion (if not down right dismissed) at first because truly new concepts, ideas and products do not by their nature answer questions and give results in the same way that the current way does. 

Thanks for your perspective. It's been an insightful discussion.

Message: 1081
Posted by: Mike Carnell
Posted on: Thursday, 16th August 2007


I was taught by an old Manufacturing Engineer to ask “Show me where it says ……” when I was new to Motorola. It separated the people who knew what they were doing from the ones that were just trying to BS their way through. Unfortunately management ranks seem to accumulate Yuppies that seem to survive well by throwing around buzz words to cover a truely superficial knowledge of anything about their business.

There are people who actually know what they want and currently choose to label it as innovation and don't necessarily care what anyone's definition is but chose to use the word. The only way people are going to know what to deliver is by asking what success looks like. It may have nothing at all to do with innovation.

A friend, Gary Cone – GPS Consulting, of mine used to keep a piece of an old t-shirt tacked to the wall beside his desk. It said “onward through the fog.” It seems there is profit in ambiguity so the incentive to resolve it is lacking.

I did not necessarily mean to imply that if it wasn't proven it wasn't worthy of investigation. There is a decision making process each person uses. Some are more risk averse than others. What gets investigated it mose like going to be a function of information available versus risk profile. Check out the information on the Blog site about Predictive Index – Gary Cone has one on Change Agents and Michael Marx has one about Bob Wilson Consulting. We have a profile around a successful Black Belt. I would put money on being able to get a profile of a innovative person as well.

Thanks for the conversation.


Message: 1097
Posted by: Giuseppe
Posted on: Sunday, 9th September 2007


The term “onward though the fog” seems to be the MO. “Show me where is says…” casues heartburn for those who have to answer and frustration to those who ask. So what happens next ? Yes, I still have “a vision beyond Friday” but at this point, I am too tired and my response is that of Chief Joseph “I will fight no more forever”. It is a shame to waste all I have lerned, but the aggrevation just isn't worth it.

PS: If I hear the words “leverage our synergies” one more time, I'm going to throw up.