Given the rhetoric and column inches invested in the subject, it seems strange that anyone is still asking “What is innovation?” Yet, in meeting after meeting, leaders ask this surprisingly frequent and urgent question. Why the fuss? Perhaps it’s because every executive in the world has been told they must either innovate or die.
The meaning of innovation may be fuzzy, but organizations set aside big budgets for “innovative” work.
Debating definitions is usually a fool’s quest, but this is one that needs to be sorted out. In The Rise of the Serial Innovator, we described a global creative transformation that’s driving a new innovation-fueled economy. Too many complex and challenging discussions lie ahead for us to leave the underlying meaning of innovation up for grabs.
Ideally a good working definition would be simple and pragmatic. It should embrace proven methodologies yet have space for creative new approaches. Let’s start by looking back at three effective (but very different) models of innovation; then let’s look forward to an exploration of where innovation needs to go in the months and years ahead.