I am often asked to speak about innovation and companies that are the most innovative, most disruptive and outstanding with global marketing. However, I’d like to explain how I think about innovation and the principles that I feel make a product, service or company innovative. But, I often encounter people and clients who overlay the following words when we start talking about innovation – the words they struggle with are: creativity, invention, and innovation.
My response is: Innovation means different things to different people, and is often context specific.
For example, innovation within Facebook’s software is totally different than innovation for the 49ers offensive line. Therefore, I generally start asking many more questions and it’s like peeling the layers from an onion.
“He who innovates will have as his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.”
~ Niccolo Machiaveli, The Prince
But, understanding the different types of innovation is also critical too. Because Innovation comes in a variety of flavors, not just chocolate, strawberry or vanilla!
If you ask a dozen people to define innovation you are likely to get at least a dozen answers. However, my answer to the question can vary because…
‘Innovation can be the process through which value is created and delivered to a community of clients, fans or users in the form of a new solution.’ In this instance I have chosen to frame the definition of innovation as a word describing a ‘process’.
However, it can also be used to describe a new product or service, which is the outcome of the innovation process that delivers value to a community. In either case, the key elements of the definition are newness and value delivery.
Creativity, by contrast, is the ability to imagine new ideas or concepts. While we won’t discuss what it means to imagine new concepts here, it is important to note that creativity does not carry the burden of value creation that innovation does.
Invention is also distinct from innovation and that distinction can rest on a fine point. Especially when you think about the attributes that an invention must possess, i.e. it must be patentable, novel, non-obvious and utilitarian. However, there are key distinctions between inventions and innovations.
One is that innovations are not required to be non-obvious. As all innovations build on the past, it is possible for an innovation to be obvious. (Though the value of an innovation is usual inversely proportional to its obviousness.)
More importantly, innovations and inventions have a potential distinction in the area of utility. Inventions need only be useful to the inventor and have recognizable utility to the patent examiner.
Innovations must answer to a higher authority.
Innovations must be deemed useful by the intended audience of use. That is to say, an invention is an invention by virtue of its existence. However, an innovation must be adopted in practice by the intended user community to be considered a true innovation.
Basically, innovation can occur anywhere in a company or brand and by anyone in the company. Anyone with a great idea has the potential. E.g. like UBER deciding not to own Hotels like: The Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, Marriott, etc.
Here is how Merriam-Webster Online, defines innovation:
“Innovation: \ˌi-nə-ˈvā-shən\ (noun ) 1 : the introduction of something new, 2 : a new idea, method, or device : Novelty”
There is another definition innovation first coined by Clayton Christensen and that is ‘disruptive innovation’. Disruptive innovation refers to a company or brands strategy relative to other company’s or firms. Often, presented as low-cost business models and ‘good-enough’ solutions/products for low-end and/or non-consumers.
However, to me, ‘innovation’ means: ‘a profitable way to implement game-changing ideas that create social and economic value.’
Basically, innovation can increase profits on the value side (clients and customers value innovation so they are willing to pay more for the benefits of innovation.) OR… on the cost side, the company produces a product or service offering in a more cost effective or efficient manner. BUT, either way – value is created for the company and his/her client or customer.
The 5 key reasons why innovation is so important:
- Innovation creates growth, increases productivity, and economic wealth and value.
- Innovation can reduce waste and environmental damage.
- Innovation provides better goods and services at a cheaper and more affordable price, which can provide a higher standard of living.
- Innovation can also help company morale and make that company a more interesting place for staff, stakeholders, partners and employees.
- Innovation helps offset old strategies where margins are being squeezed and replicated by competitors.
Then there are the Top 10 questions I often encounter in my discussions with clients about innovation. They generally range from innovation Process to Offering, as well as Delivery and Finance innovation. The most common are in my opinion are:
- What is an innovation Process?
- How do you add value to innovation?
- What are the basic features, functions and performance capabilities of innovation?
- What systems do I need to surround my innovation with?
- How do you service your customer(s) with innovation?
- How do you deliver innovation to your customers? E.g. Channels
- How do you brand your innovation and express it to your customers?
- What unique customer experiences do you need to deliver to customers or clients?
- What’s your business model to capitalize on innovation to make money?
- What added value does your innovation provide to both your clients/customers and your business?
Innovation is a disciplined system, experiment and process. The more types of innovation you incorporate, the more successful your innovation will be and the better results you will obtain. E.g. From Business Model to product performance to customer experience etc.
In fact, a new product or service offering may be marketed as “innovative” further blurs the distinction between an incremental improvement and a transformational or even disruptive innovation. So, with about 5 or 6 questions I’ve just mentioned, I can then start to ascertain what they mean by innovation.
I have written about Nike before, because Nike excels at innovation and continues to lead using their ‘NIKEID’ service. This provides their customers with the ability to personalize and design their own Nike merchandise. They offer both online services as well as physical and in store NIKEID services.
Additionally, NIKE have developed many new products and services around their great shoes and sneakers including: how to measure calories burned and record the distance traveled and the speed of travel and Make their products become a service too! Now that’s how you provide value to your customers and clients beyond and around your existing range.
P&G are another great company that innovates continuously too. They have innovation strategies in place from Research + Development to P&G Connect + Develop. They also support the idea of partnering externally to accelerate innovation. This is also applied across the company and has been a major initiative for as long as I can remember. That’s why P&G remains a leader.
Microsoft is also an innovator and a great example of their innovation is how they provide a platform for multiple MS Products and services with their bundles of specific products e.g. WORD, POWERPOINT, EXCEL, etc. These ‘bundled’ systems have been designed to deliver productivity and efficiency in today’s workplace. Now that’s innovation!
Then there’s Apple, they think differently about everything they do. Apple believes they must challenge the status quo and for them, that’s a critical part of being innovative.
Importantly, they face this challenge by making their products beautifully designed, simple to use and incredibly user-friendly. Steve Jobs was even quoted on importance of innovation when he said, ‘Innovation is the only way to win’.
There are also other iconic brands today that are innovative: GoPro, Facebook, Uber, Ben & Jerry’s, Netflix, Zappos’, Amazon, Tesla, Taco Bell, Spotify, Buzzfeed, Alphabet, CVS Health, MLB Advanced Media, Fitbit. They are all shaking up today’s marketplace and getting results with their approaches to innovation.
Here is a great quote from Peter Drucker on innovation:
“BECAUSE THE PURPOSE OF BUSINESS IS TO CREATE A CUSTOMER, THE BUSINESS ENTERPRISE HAS TWO – AND ONLY TWO – BASIC FUNCTIONS:
MARKETING AND INNOVATION.
MARKETING AND INNOVATION PRODUCE RESULTS; ALL THE REST ARE COSTS.”
Bottom-line, true innovation is coming up with a product or service people never knew they needed or wanted.
Hope you enjoyed this post and it serves you well.
Stay passionate, play BIG and go take some massive action.
Win the day!
About Geoff De Weaver:
Hailing from New York; Geoff De Weaver is the globally experienced entrepreneur, digital pioneer, global marketer, technology disruptor, high performance business coach, transformation expert, author, keynote speaker, investor and CEO.
Feel free to get in touch with Geoff for further information:
If you liked this article, I know you’ll love these two articles too:
1. BIG DATA + BIG IDEAS = BIG IMPACT IN SPORTS MARKETING (Part 1) https://geoffdeweaver.com/big-data-big-ideas-big-impact-in-sports-marketing-part-1/
2. “Stephen Curry is Passionate, Innovative and Generational Hero” by @geoff_deweaver on @LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/stephen-curry-passionate-innovative-generational-hero-geoff-de-weaver