How is innovation defined in your organisation?

How is innovation defined in your organisation?

When delving deeper to understand an organisation’s level of innovation maturity, a typical comment we hear is an exasperated: “You know, I don’t think our people really know what innovation is all about.” To which we ask: “So, how is innovation defined in your organisation?” We rarely receive a conclusive answer. This is problematic because if employees don’t know what innovation is, why it is important, or how to go about it, then innovation is unlikely to flourish.

Our own research has found that between 33% and 60% of employees will respond to the question “How is innovation defined in your organisation?” with “I don’t know”. For those who do respond, the answers we collect from within a single organisation have never been the same.

The way your organisation defines innovation has a huge impact on how people perceive innovation and their resulting behaviour.

So, here are a few tips when creating a kick-ass definition:

  1. Use simple terminology – there is no place for technical jargon.
  2. Keep it short and sweet – a paragraph is not a definition! You want people to be able to remember and repeat.
  3. Define innovation as broader than just new product development – innovation is much more than just the latest technology gimmick, so make sure you don’t narrow people’s perceptions of what it entails.
  4. Innovation is part of everyone’s role – your innovation definition shouldn’t be reserved just for the new product or marketing team.
  5. Link innovation back to business value.

At Inventium, the innovation definition we love the most is ‘change that adds value’, which covers off the above points. It also happens to be how the scientific community defines innovation (but simplified somewhat!)

Your call to action:

  • Find out what your organisation’s definition of innovation is and check that it is in line with the above tips. Make it better or feel free to steal ‘change that adds value’.
  • Broadcast the definition to everyone, and ask how we can help with a launch at your next organisational meet.
  • Encourage leaders to take the definition back to their respective departments and make it practical and tangible for their teams. For example, explore what innovation means in practice for the IT team, the finance team, the operations team, and so on.
  • Begin to collect and share real innovation stories to strengthen the connection between the definition and innovation outcomes.


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