What Is Innovation

What Is Innovation

I always get asked the question “what is Innovation?”

Is it just about inventing something new? Or is there something more involved in it? Can innovation only happen in the technology field? Or can Innovation happen in other fields too? Are Innovators born or can we make individuals “innovate”?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “Innovate” means “to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products” while “Innovation” means “the action or process of innovating”. Thus, “innovation” is not about just inventing something new.  It’s about successfully utilizing a product or a service in a more productive and beneficial manner.  This product or service might already be in existence or it could be a new invention.  However, key to “innovation” is to successfully commercialize the product or service in a manner where people benefit from it and utilize it to get a specific job done more productively. 

Of course, the best example of innovation is what Apple and Steve Jobs did to the mobile phone.  Before Apple came up with the iPhone, the mobile phone was a device just for making phone calls, sending text messages and some rudimentary Internet surfing. Steve Jobs had a vision of new way to utilize the cell phone and used “disruptive innovation” to come up with a new category of mobile devices.  These devices were more than just a mobile phone but enabled the user to become part of a wider eco-system which included web surfing, Apps, Music, Video, Games, Books and Magazines, and now even financial services.  Steve Job’s vision was to be able to access your whole life through the iPhone and today, millions of users do exactly just that.  “Innovation” made it happen. 

“Innovation”, of course, can happen in any field.  Pharmaceuticals are a great example of an industry which continuously “innovates” and is always coming up with new and innovative methods to fight disease.  PayPal is an example of firm which lead to major “innovations” in the financial field.  Proctor and Gamble has a major focus on “innovation” and continuously comes up with new solutions for our daily needs to live a quality life. 

Who can “innovate”? The answer is anyone.  “Innovation” is a matter of changing an organization’s or a country’s culture to be more enquiring, to be asking why, to be asking how and to be always striving to improve.  Anyone can innovate but it takes years of discipline, insights and perseverance to come up with the next disruptive product or service, or even a new business model.  So today is the best time to start on your “innovation” journey.