Define Innovation

What kind of magic is this?

In this blog series I want to point out some transformative ideas and technologies that have popped up in locations all over the world over the course of time. The posts are meant to be informative, interesting, and most of all inspiring. After all, if ‘innovation’ is so widespread, what is stopping you from being a part of the next big thing? That is not to say that ‘innovating’ is an easy task.  It involves risk-taking, the right combination of knowledge from various disciplines, and the ability to transform the invention or idea into something significant and feasible. But we will get to that later…

In this first post, to kick-start your brain, I would like to pose the question:

How do you define ‘innovation’?

The oxford English dictionary provides us with some interesting synonyms:

change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, reorganization, restructuring, rearrangement, recasting, remodelling, renovation, restyling, variation

Let’s see if you can agree with this… Loosely put, an ‘innovation’ is something that causes change in everyday life. And someone (being a person, company, government, etc.) who ’innovates’ challenges the status quo, which in a sense, implies that the term is synonymous with risk-taking. A true ‘innovation’ delivers value to people, and must be realizable (either at an economic cost or with government subsidies). The implementation of an ‘innovation’ can occur on a large scale, with so called ‘evolutionary innovations’ that cause incremental change, or on a smaller scale ‘revolutionary innovations’ which are more disruptive and can create new markets.

These days, the term ‘innovative’ is constantly being thrown around in the world of economics, technology, business, design, sociology, engineering… etc. The term has gained a positive connotation, and is very often used for marketing and promotional purposes. But it is interesting to note here that ‘innovations’ do not only have positive effects. Take the car, for example; it can be considered an ‘evolutionary innovation’ because it completely transformed the world of transportation and is at the core of our everyday infrastructure. The invention of cars, however, brought pollution and other environmental issues, due to the need to build and maintain roads. These negative effects were overlooked at first, but their impact is becoming more recognized as global warming and the effects of CO2 are confirmed by scientists. This goes to say that although an ‘innovation’ brings value to people, and can result in vast improvements and opportunities; there are often drawbacks to such a transformation that should be considered and dealt with before widespread implementation (especially in the case of ‘evolutionary innovations’).

Regardless of how you define it, innovation is an interesting topic to discuss and think about because of its transformative capabilities, the massive impact it can have on society as a whole (both good and bad), and how deeply embedded it is in business decisions. I hope this post has pushed you beyond the surface of this trending keyword and forced you to think a bit more about what it means when a company or product brands itself as ‘innovative’.

In future posts, I will dig into some important historical innovations, and later, look at some of the fascinating developments that are happening around the world right now.

If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.

[Albert Einstein]

1 Comment

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