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What is innovation?

Definitions from the literature

[MD06]: something unusual or statistically infrequent, notable, valuable, and of high quality.

[RSC05]: “…the ability to introduce and apply beneficial processes, products, or procedures that are new to that area….”

  • “…innovation is comprised of two distinct stages – the generation of an idea and its subsequent application – whereas creativity only involves the first of these stages.”
  • “[Creativity]] involves the generation of ideas that are entirely novel, whereas innovation only requires that such ideas are new to a particular area.”
  • “…it therefore seems likely that creativity is more closely aligned with radical rather than incremental innovation.”

Post by Harold Nelson to phd-design, 22 May 2008: When I talk with people in organizations who have decided innovation is the strategy of choice, I try to define innovation as 'the process of making something new a part of a population's everyday life'. Processes like those described in the book “Tipping Point” (Malcolm Gladwell, 2000), or the article “The Long Nose of Innovation” (Bill Buxton, BusinessWeek 2008), or Everett Rogers' model of the diffusion of innovation are all examples of innovation processes. Innovation can be accomplished through 'selling', 'serving', 'imposing' or other means of infusing new ideas into a population. I explain to them that different sources can produce 'new' (to them) ideas or things as innovations, for example: old ideas that are merely new to a particular population ( 'democratic governance' in societies that have never had that experience.) I also explain that successful innovations are not by definition– good. An example I use is the spread of crack cocaine in the US. It is one of the most successful innovations in recent history for this part of the world. It is diffused throughout urban, suburban, small town, and rural areas.

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See Also


[MD06]. R. Milgram & N. Davidovich. 2006. Creative thinking as a predictor of teacher effectiveness at three levels: Elementary, secondary, and higher education. Proc 26th International Congress of Applied Psychology [CD-ROM]. Athens, Greece.
[RSC05]. M.A. Robinson, P.R. Sparrow, C. Clegg and K. Birdi 2005. Design engineering competencies: future requirements and predicted changes in the forthcoming decade. Design Studies, 26:123-153.
design/innovation.txt · Last modified: 2020.03.12 13:30 (external edit)