Introduction to Innovation
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What is Innovation?
Innovation is not a single event or activity, it is a process. In terms of business, innovation is the generation of fresh ideas, the ongoing development of products, services and processes and their commercial application.
Creativity is the most important part of being innovative as it initiates the process. Creativity is about generating new ideas and the process of innovation involves making those ideas a reality. Creativity is wasted if there is no process in place to take ideas and turn them into something that has market potential.
The concept of innovation is sometimes confused with the term invention. Whilst both innovation and invention are closely related, invention specifically refers to making new discoveries and designs or coming up with new ways of doing things. Invention is the technical part of innovation, involving the development of an idea or discovery to the point where it works theoretically.
It has been suggested that innovation involves a certain degree of luck in order to occur. Whilst some discoveries are made by chance, without the knowledge to recognise an idea that has potential, opportunities can be missed. In most cases, even chance discoveries happen after a significant amount of effort is put into researching or developing related ideas.
Innovation is also concerned with the commercial and practical application of ideas and inventions. In business, innovation is essentially the commercial exploitation of viable ideas. It involves the management of idea generation, technical development, manufacturing and marketing of a new product, process or service.
Innovations can fall into one of three categories; incremental, complementary or disruptive. Incremental innovations are small changes, additions and improvements that are added to existing products and services. Incremental innovations are added to products to extend the length of their lifecycle and keep them up to date.
Complementary innovations are new products or services that can be added to existing product lines. They add value to your product lines without having a negative impact on your existing products and services.
In contrast, disruptive (or radical) innovations replace existing products by being significantly better than anything currently offered in the market. They make existing products redundant and are adopted by the majority or even the entirety of the market. This is most evident in the electronics technology industry. For example, the LCD screen completely replaced the CRT screen as the preferred computer monitor.