What Is Not Innovation?

March 11, 2022

We can consider innovation simply as "Invention x Commercialization." As MIT Professor Bill Aulet described in his course (available in MIT OpenCourseWare), you need both an invention and commercialization of that invention if it is innovation. In other words, "innovation is something different that creates value." (You can read more about it from our blog post on open innovation.) However, innovation can be sometimes misunderstood and confused by other terms similar to innovation. For example, there is a common misconception that innovation is all about technology. Although innovation is a lot to do with technology, it cannot be degraded to just technology; technology offers mediums for innovation. There are also other types of misconceptions about innovation. Let's look deeper.

Innovation is not equal to technology.

Technological innovation is a component of the more extensive practice of innovation. It focuses on technology and appropriately incorporates it into products, services, and operations. As a body of knowledge, technology can thus be regarded as a framework for technological innovation, acting as a basis for research, design, development, manufacturing, and marketing.

Innovation is not just product-related.

Even though the product is the most obvious, you can see innovation in various fields, including service, business operations (manufacturing, technical help, sales, marketing, and so on), organization, and business model. For example, Starbucks coffee shops are revolutionary because of the experience they provide their consumers, not because of the coffee or food they sell. Ikea is an example of business model innovation since it alters many parts of the puzzle that creates the home furnishings industry: items with a Nordic design at a decent cost, clients who install the furniture they buy, stores with a set tour, etc.

Innovation is not just for big companies.

It is a common myth that only large corporations can innovate, although startups have been taking attention, and their power has become more evident since the pandemics. On the contrary, large corporations frequently become so large and bureaucratic that they find it faster and cheaper to acquire startups and other companies that are innovating in the sector of interest than to try to innovate from within.

Innovation is not a department or a person.

There cannot be an innovation department without the rest of the company being innovative. A company is either innovative as a whole - or at least the majority of its employees are - or not. For both brainstorming and project launch, innovation demands the collaboration of many people from various areas and levels within the company. It is more of a cultural issue than an operational one.

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