What is Innovation?
“Different and new is relatively easy. Doing something that’s genuinely better is very hard.” —Jony Ive
Horace Dedium of Asymco has coined a new term called innoveracy: as the inability to understand creativity and the role it plays in society. He goes on to provide a taxonomy:
Novelty: Something new
Creation: Something new and valuable
Invention: Something new, having potential value through utility
Innovation: Something new and uniquely useful
Why is this important?
Understanding that innovation requires passing a market test and that passing that test is immensely rewarding both for the creator and for society at large means that we can focus on how to make it happen. Obsessing over the mere novelties or inventions means we allocate resources which markets won’t reward. Misusing the term and confusing it with activities that don’t create value takes our eye off the causes and moves us away from finding ways of repeatably succeeding. Recognizing that innoveracy is a problem allows us to address it. Addressing it would mean we could speak a language of value creation that everyone understands.
The focus on usefulness is the key. It encompasses unique, valuable and new. If you are serious about making a difference, then you are focussed on innovation. This connects back to the Jony Ive quote at the start which is the focus on “genuinely better” and I think he implies for the customers. The interesting question is what is the “market test” in social innovation? Is it the raising funds? Is it the use of a service? is it engagement? or is it results, the change you can create for your primary customer? I would say the change you create is the ultimate market test.