Last two centuries were the centuries of invention – the current seems like the era of innovation. Very few people, however, seem to truly understand the essence of innovation, what it really is, and how it is just as important, if not more, as invention. Many believe that it is just a buzzword that sounds impressive and heavy but actually lacks any real sense or substance. This is a serious misconception that may limit productivity and potential of individuals as well as organizations.
It is true that innovation is more of an abstract concept as compared to invention. This fact, however, is also what makes it all the more important. Innovation and invention are both processes of creating. In case of invention, it is creation of a product or a process. In case of innovation, value is the main product. Therefore, one can also say that innovation is a process of improvement rather than creation. It is indeed as simple as that.
What causes confusion regarding the concept of innovation is the kind of examples used to explain it. Most people will talk about how Apple innovated the smartphones and stories that involved lot of technical mumbo-jumbo, but innovation is not all about technology. Everyone can be an innovator in everything they do. A teacher, for instance, can be an innovator by introducing a teaching method that facilitates easy and quick learning. A chef can be an innovator by introducing a more efficient technique of slicing vegetables. Da Vinci was an innovator not because he created models for machines of the future but also because he pioneered techniques to add dimensions and depth to his artwork. From art to education and from science to everyday life, innovation is incorporating improvement and creating value through that improvement. So, to put it accurately, innovation is the way forward.
This definition holds true in the world of businesses. We have entered an era where inventions are not as frequent as in the past two centuries. The R&D sector is no longer invested in discoveries and inventions, it is more geared towards innovation because at the end of the day, it is the value that generates revenue. The wheel on innovation is moving at a much faster pace than the wheels of invention and businesses that fail to keep pace fail to survive.
To answer the question, innovation is not a buzzword – it is a necessity and the most crucial key to survival, both on an individual and organizational level.