Had a discussion with a friend some time ago about the definition of innovation, that we didn’t quite agree on the semantics but kind of agreed on the principles. After giving it some thought, I realize I was not arguing for the definition of innovation, but rather how I see the innovation process, and how to break it down, and how I value the steps of the process, which I have touched before here, but here goes another approach of it:
1. “Problem and revelation”
Either you have a problem or you just have a revelation of that something could be done differently. This can often coincide with step 2.
Elaborating, brain-storming or what-ever get’s you going, you conclude this to an idea of how something could be done, or doing something already existing better, or just different to fit another use. In this step an application is developed, e.g. “I want to pinch to zoom in when using the mapping application on the device”.
You “solve” the idea, by developing methods, technologies etc to bring it to life. This is what is traditionally called an innovation. This could be the multi-touch screen technology on the iPhone, the software the processes the inputs. This step is often patentable.
Now the whole idea is that this 3 step process is what’s crucial for the innovation process to produce valuable outcome. Some put a very industrial approach to this, with a heavy emphasis on a problem (defined out of existing value networks), but no “revelations”, which can result in missing new customers groups and applications (non-consumers today), read more about this in Clayton Christensen’s “Innovators Dilemma”.
There are good examples of innovations that is extremely valuable that did not go through this process, one that changed the world as we now it, that with-out we would not have the speedy Internet, view DVD’s or play CD’s, or precision corrective eye-surgery among other things.
That is the Laser, which was an innovation that started in the 3rd step, with-out a problem, revelation or an idea of application.
So would you not want to be the inventor of the Laser? It would be fun, but I would rather invent something that did not take 20 years to find it’s first application, which is why I try to focus my Entrepreneurship on creating ideas and innovations that have applications in the near future.