9 things that are NOT innovation

JoostInnovation, Philosophy

1. Innovation is NOT just product related

Product is the most tangible, but innovation is given in many fields: service, business processes (manufacturing, technical assistance, sales, marketing, etc), organization or business model. Starbucks coffee shops are innovative thanks to the experience they offer to their customers, not for the coffee or the food they sell. Ikea is the kind of business model innovation because it changes many pieces of the puzzle that shapes the home furniture business: products with a Nordic design, for a fair price, clients that assemble the furniture they buy, stores with a fixed tour, etc.

2. Innovation is NOT just techy

Technological innovation is a part of the total innovation discipline. It focuses specifically on technology and how to embody it successfully in products, services and processes. Technology as a body of knowledge might thus be seen as a building block for technological innovation, serving as cornerstone to research, design, development, manufacturing and marketing.

3. Innovation is NOT just for big companies

It is a myth that only the big companies have the ability to innovate. On the contrary, many times big companies become so large and bureaucratic, that they find it faster and cheaper to buy startups and other companies that are innovating the sector they are interested in than trying innovation from within.

4. Innovation is NOT a person (or a department)

A company is innovative as a whole -or at least the majority- or it is not. Innovation requires the collaboration of many people from different areas and levels within the company, for both brainstorming and launching the projects. It is more a cultural issue rather than operational.

5. Innovation is NOT inspiration

Innovation is hard & honest work. Continuous and extended work (in the sense of shared with many people) following a method, knowing what we’re doing and towards where we´re going. And especially, focused on the user, asking why he does what he does and observing how he does it.

6. Innovation is NOT doing something new in our company

Another common mistake: saying we are innovating just because we are doing something new in OUR company. Are we really innovating just because we launched the company’s website, that we didn’t have yet, but many other competitors already have? To innovate is to create something NEW in your industry that adds more value to the users. And ALSO new in an international context, because if it already exists in different countries, what we’re really doing is “importing innovation”. If it is new but it doesn’t add higher value to the current alternatives, it will not work and therefore it’s not going to be an innovation.

7. Innovation is NOT expensive

It doesn’t need to be expensive, just like nowadays we understand that working with quality does not necessarily need to be: it is simply about doing things right, the first time.

8. Innovation is NOT just for creative people

Innovation is for everybody because we are all creative. Creativity is like a muscle: we all have it but it can be less or more developed, depending on how much we use it. When we were children, we were all creative. What happened afterwards it’s on the education system.Innovation, as stated before, is a team work: groups of people collaborating, not individuals or elites. It is not (just) for engineers or marketeers.

9. Innovation is NOT incremental

To innovate is to create something new, if not, that’s not innovation. When we don’t create something new we refer to something called improvement. Sometimes I think that the term “incremental innovation” has been invented in order to justify the lack of real innovations from those who declare themselves as the most innovative. From personal experience, when we chase something new, there are more possibilities to create and innovate because we don’t settle with the first idea as we are more demanding.

Xavier Speeleveld

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