Demystifying Innovation: What Is and Isn't

Simon Tratnik
  • 4
    min read
  • Simon Tratnik
    Sep 4, 2023

One word sticks out in a world full of lingo and buzzwords, appearing in boardrooms and brainstorming sessions; innovation seems to be the go-to word.

Innovation is a word full of danger, potential, and promise.

The idea of innovation is frequently misunderstood, leading to uncertainty that can impede development and growth. To debunk popular myths and provide a clear, concise explanation of innovation, this post aims to demystify it.

In this article, you'll have the skills to spot genuine innovation and foster a creative workplace environment.

A dynamic visual capturing innovators in deep discussion, embodying the core of demystifying innovation. Their focus is palpable, weaving together creativity, understanding, and strategy, all set against the backdrop of a bustling market context. Their joint effort hints at the development of solutions, with tools at the ready, pointing to the implementation of a concept that could reshape business practices. This scene is not just an example of innovation in action but a testament to the practice of innovating, underlined by the very definition of demystifying innovation.

The Challenge of Defining Innovation

Consider the following scenario: You're part of a team driving innovation within your organization. You attend a meeting where the company management urges everyone to "innovate," expecting groundbreaking ideas and transformative change. As the conversation continues, it becomes clear that rather than seeking genuine innovation, management's comfort lies in the familiar territory of product optimization or reviving strategies that have previously worked.

Following the above scenario, the disconnect between the expectation of innovation and the reality of optimization is common.

In my experience as an innovation consultant, I've seen a lot of cases where the term "innovation" is used interchangeably with "improvement" or "optimization." This misunderstanding can lead to frustration, misalignment, and a loss of valuable innovation-led growth opportunities.


Clarifying Common Misconceptions

Let's start by discussing the term's general misuse to better understand innovation's complexities. As a noun (innovate), a verb (operate in an inventive way), and an adjective (innovative), innovation can take many different forms. These types all have different implications. Each of these forms carries distinct implications.

Noun: Innovation 

As a noun, innovation describes the results of creative thinking and problem-solving. It leads to the emergence of something new and valuable. Innovation might be an entirely novel product, process, or idea that benefits customers and businesses.

Verb: Work in an Innovative Way

Working in an innovative way involves improving, optimizing, or innovating through creative methods, tools, and strategies. It represents innovative thinking, risk-taking, and problem-solving techniques to produce something more valuable and new.

Adjective: Innovative

A product or service is said to be innovative if it is unique, groundbreaking, and has the potential to revolutionize an industry. Being innovative reflects the capacity to come up with creative solutions and think outside of one's comfort zone.

A vivid tableau showcasing the intricate machinery of innovation, symbolizing the essence of demystifying innovation. The framework is imbued with creative technology, signaling the birth of a new idea that could reshape the market landscape. Within this intricate nexus, there's a sense of understanding, a marriage of creativity and strategy that speaks to the world of innovative processes and practices. The tools depicted hint at the refined solutions innovators bring to life, stemming from a confluence of knowledge and effort. This portrayal is a testament to the value companies place on innovation and the importance of crafting solutions that resonate in today's business culture. At its core, this imagery encapsulates the very definition of demystifying innovation.

A Simple Yet Comprehensive Definition

Let's now simplify what we know into a brief yet thorough definition. So what is innovation?

Innovation is the implementation of new ideas that add value.

Now let's break it down. There are three essential conditions in the above definition capture the core of innovation:

  1. Newness: Innovation is introducing something new, whether it's a groundbreaking product, a novel strategy for problem-solving, or a unique perspective on an issue.
  2. Implementation: Innovative ideas must be successfully implemented for them to succeed. True innovation represents Executing and transforming these ideas into practical solutions.
  3. Value Addition: The ultimate goal of innovation is to enhance value for the end user and the business itself. A concept isn't innovative if it doesn't provide value.


Criteria for Genuine Innovation in the Real World

  • Impactful Change: True innovation should solve urgent issues or needs innovatively and effectively, leading to significant and positive changes in the real world.
  • Market Viability: Genuine innovation must have the potential to be economically sustainable and appealing to stakeholders, including consumers, investors, stakeholders, and financial institutions, to attract adequate attention and support.
  • Ethical and Sustainability Considerations: The goal of an innovative solution should be to minimize harm to the environment and society while increasing benefits while also considering long-term ethical and environmental concerns.
  • User-Centric Design: Great innovation focuses on the end-user experience at the initial stages, ensuring users find the solution user-friendly, easy to navigate, and suited to their needs, ultimately boosting its adoption and impact.
Employees collaboratively working on digital products in an office setting, illustrating the essence of demystifying innovation. This scene showcases the merging of creative and technology-driven processes, highlighting the value of new ideas in the business world. Within the company, these innovative practices are essential in understanding the market's needs, ensuring that the organization delivers solutions with a genuine sense of creativity.

What Innovation Is Not

To further clarify the concept of innovation, it's essential to differentiate it from related but clear terms:

Innovation ≠ Invention

Inventing and innovating requires the development of something new. Innovation focuses on making an idea practical and valuable. While innovation focuses on making it useful and valuable. Invention is the initial act of working on a new idea, whereas innovation is implementing and refining it.

Innovation ≠ Creativity

Innovation is sparked by creativity, but the two are different. Creativity involves coming up with ideas, often without putting them into practice. On the other hand, innovation aims to transform original concepts into useful, practical outcomes.

Innovation ≠ Technology

The technology field involves tools and techniques connected to the digital world. Technology can facilitate innovation, but it is not the same thing as innovation. Innovation is not limited to the technological field; it can happen in many domains.

Innovation ≠ Improvement

Improving existing processes or products is essential for growth but should not be confused with innovation. While innovation focuses on producing something new or radically improving the status quo, improvement focuses on making something better, faster, or cheaper.


In Summary

Even though it's frequently misunderstood, innovation is a crucial engine for development in any firm. The use of innovative ideas is what benefits the user and the company. We can develop a common understanding that encourages efficient cooperation and execution by dissecting innovation into its three essential parts: novelty, implementation, and value.

You can confidently navigate the complicated world of creativity and transformation now that you have a clear definition and standards for identifying genuine innovation.

Remember that innovation is a driving force that may take your company to new heights; it's not just a trendy word.

As you reflect on this framework for innovation, consider applying it to your projects and initiatives. Evaluate whether they meet the criteria of newness, successful implementation, and value addition.

If you find areas for improvement or need further guidance, contact us at Human1st for a free discovery call to help you out on how to start with innovation-led growth.

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