What does innovation look like? Is it the look of frustration on a users face as they consider a problem? Is it someone surveying an industry or a government program and saying “there has to be an easier way?” Or is innovation simply the person sitting next to you on the bus with a new gadget that you don’t have – but suddenly need?
Is innovation getting the first adopter or the 12th? (or some number in between, or some number beyond 12). Is innovation the first time someone does something the new way and its more effective than doing it the old way? Or the last time you do something the old way, realizing the new way is more efficient? Is innovation a market changer? There are a number of books on the topic of innovation, from what causes and why innovation fails to the overall concept of sustaining innovation.
Innovation is applied to big and small things.
There is an excellent essay on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovation that is the current posted definition of innovation the use. I like the definition provided “The central meaning of innovation thus relates to renewal or improvement, with novelty being a consequence of this improvement. For an improvement to take place it is necessary for people to change the way they make decisions, or make choices outside of their norm. Schumpeter c.s. (~1930) states that “innovation changes the values onto which the system is based”. When people change their value system, the old (economic) system will change to make room for the better one. When that happens innovation has occurred. Innovation can be seen as something that does, not something that is.”
But I wonder if in fact innovation isn’t sometimes a leap beyond what is. I was captivated by Walter Cronkite in the summer of 1969. From riots and rebellion and nearly class and racial warfare in the south he brought us the moon landing. The first human being on the moon changed the world forever, closing the loop begun in a speech by John F. Kennedy. The moon landing closed a decade, and provided a source of innovation that still exists and is innovating today. From lighter stronger materials (anything from bullet proof vests – to a more structurally sound building in earthquakes) to what we now leverage as Cell phones, Televisions and computers.
It seems almost the innovation can be a leap (the moon landing) or a step forward (Windows 95) that change the way everything is done. Innovation is the disruption of “normalcy.”
The question becomes what is the next innovation that will change the world. What comes next?
Is “the cloud” the next great innovation? A mapping of technology, business process and professionalization?
It is a story for time to tell us….
Normalcy is a word coined by the American President FDR and is not a real word. Well that is not completely true. It is an innovation of language that allows normalcy to be a word now, it was not a word when it was coined more than 50 years ago.