Innovation in 5: What is it?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose                           By any other name would smell as sweet.’                                                             Juliet, Romeo and Juliet

When it comes to defining innovation, the ground turns muddy pretty fast.

“Creativity!” you might hear. “Ideas!” someone else shouts. “More ideas!” Not to forget Thomas Edison and his “99 per cent”.

No wonder executives pale at talk of innovation.

Innovation can and does at times encompass such terms but they’re not interchangeable. They all mean different, specific things.

To achieve clarity, it’s critical to define innovation in a way that makes sense to leaders, the wider organisation and key stakeholders.

Is it, for example, “to do something new or different that creates value”?

Innovation is a process by which ideas get executed. It has several steps that need to be managed.

Don’t get hung up on semantics (“radical!”) or jargon (“stage-gate!”). Too often, executives get diverted by things that don’t really matter and give up, exhausted.

Innovation is no different to strategy or other important management responsibilities.

Language is critical to create a shared understanding to underpin future investment, activities and measurement.

You may well find you’re doing it already – your people are innovating – only you and they call it something else.

So what? That’s no deal-breaker. As effective leaders know, results speak louder than words.

This is #2 in a series of quick-reference posts on innovation basics.

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