A Definition Of Innovation

By Martin Gilliard

I like the following definition of innovation, which is quoted by Paul Trott a recognised authority on the subject:

“Innovation is not a single action but a total process of interrelated sub processes. It is not just the conception of a new idea, nor the invention of a new device, nor the development of a new market. The process is all these things acting in an integrated fashion.” - Myers & Marquis (1969)

The Encarta dictionary defines innovation as: noun Definition:

  1. origination: the act or process of inventing or introducing something new
  2. new idea or method: a new invention or way of doing something suspicious of fax machines and other technological innovations
a dictionary

(Photo Credit greeblie)

However in the academic world there is little consensus on exactly how to define innovation.

Some of the more popular definitions:

"Innovation is the degree to which changes are intentionally implemented that is new to the organisation" (Mohr, 1969).

Damanpour (1991) defined innovation as: 

"the generation, development, and adaptation of novel ideas on the part of the firm".

The European Commission Green paper (1999) on innovation defines innovation as: 

"the successful production, assimilation and exploitation of novelty in the economic and social spheres".

Nohria and Gulati (1996) give the following definition of innovation:

"include any policy, structure, method or process, or any product or market opportunity that the manager of an operating unit perceives to be new."

Zaltman et al.(1973) defined innovation as: 

"any idea, practice, or material artifact perceived to be new by the relevant unit of adoption".

And Boer and During define it as:

"Innovation is the creation of a new product–market–technology–organisation combination" (Boer and During, 2001).

In its most simple form I like to think of innovation as the process of introducing something new.

Innovation goes through a number of innovation phasesnamely, project definition, coalition building and last but not least, action.

There are many different types of innovation with incremental (incremental improvements to an existing product or process) and radical (something entirely new) being two of the more mentioned types amongst innovation professionals. 

With any innovation there is an element of risk. For further information please see innovation and risk taking.

You may also want to read an explanation of what is innovation? Learn about some of the sources of innovation or discover the importance of fast innovation. 

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