Punkd for office supplies
giving credit it's due


Innovation.  We all use the word. But what does innovation truly mean?

Light I recently asked this question both on this blog and via email and LinkedIn to a number of friends, colleagues and coworkers.  After some help from some old and new friends, we have successfully initiated some great discussions around an interesting topic. 

Before I present  the complete collection of submissions, I would like to present the swarm below.  After removing a couple of common and unrelated terms below is a basic visual representation of the terms we most use when describing innovation.   

note: if you're using an RSS reader, the graphic below will appear as text.  To view the graphic click here.

created at TagCrowd.com

Some Thoughts

Looking at the words most used when describing innovation, it is fairly apparent that innovation involves going beyond the status quo.  This should be fairly obvious, so let's set the lowest common bar for innovation at going beyond the status quo.  So our first learning would be, that innovation involves going beyond the status quo.

The most used set of terms describe the drivers for innovation are : problem, creativity, idea, change, better, progress, forward, solving, radical, and value.  If you look at this as a collective statement representing the sum of our associations or descriptions of innovation, one could argue that we have arrived a framework for innovation.

There is a problem so we utilize our creativity in creating an idea that will drive change for the better, representing progress, and moving forward, solving the problem in a radical way, thereby creating value.

If it weren't for David Armano's (and a few other) submissions this might have been an accurate collective statement.  If we ignore the similar and related adjectives and focus on the verbs (actions) describing innovation, we could potentially arrive at some sort of valuable conclusion around what actions are actually innovative.  However, the swarm above does not truly tell context, it only presents words as standalone statements.  Armano proposed that innovations means "solving a problem that you didn't even know you had.".  AdPuppet suggests that "Innovation is progress past perceived potential.".  Marcus at the Ides of March suggests that Innovation is "knowing the unknown".  If we were to combine these ideas (and please correct me if I'm misunderstanding your comments), then...

Innovation means being two steps ahead of the game, anticipating problems we are not yet aware of, and crafting solutions that make today's norm tomorrow's problem to be overcome. 

As an illustrative example, before I had high speed mobile connectivity I didn't know I needed it, now that I have it I don't know how I lived without it.  Or perhaps even better - what did you do to find things before Google?  What would your life be like if the internet was down for one week?

This suggests that the leading word we should be associating with innovation is not problem, but opportunity.  A few of the submissions included a similar related term - potential.  So maybe innovation really means addressing a potential opportunity, creating a new idea and moving this idea through to real world application, thereby creating a problem should this innovative new entity no longer be available.  Jaffe may have been speaking of this transition when he wrote "Innovation is bold experimentation against a backdrop and goal of change, evolution and progress."  Scott Monty, Matt Dickman, Doug Meacham, and Ryan Karpeles all  spoke to this idea as well. 

However, as with all crowdsourced projects, we can never arrive at a true consensus, we can only speak to the middle ground and the most common trends. 

The submissions we have received thusfar have been amazing.  If after reading this post, you would like to bring this discussion to your own blog, social network, coworkers or partners-in-crime please feel free to share.  If after reading through some of the submissions below you would like to take a crack at creating THE innovation one liner, please feel free to comment.

Innovation Is...

For formatting and flow reasons some of these responses have been slightly reworded without in any way altering, changing or adulterating the content message.   If you feel that you have been misrepresented, please feel free to reach out and we'll fix this issue as soon as possibleApoligies for some formatting irregularities, there seems to be a glitch in the system.

Innovation is creative thinking that leads to unique solutions. - C.C.

Innovation is Insight plus Creativity transformed through Action. - Mike Arauz

Innovation is measured by its distance from the familiar:

1. Additive
2. Iterative
3. Disruptive

- Catherine McQuaid

Innovation is the process or result of combining previously separate ideas or technologies in useful and valuable ways. - karl long

Innovation is a new take on a pre-existing idea, concept, product, etc.- Andrew

Innovation is bold experimentation against a backdrop and goal of change, evolution and progress. - jJ

Innovation is looking at the same thing in new ways. - Valeria Maltoni

Innovation is the successful exploitation of ideas generated at the intersection of invention and insight, which leads to the creation of social or economic value. - Doug Meacham

Innovation is what dickwads like us who work in creative industries waste loads of time defining and judging, and zero time doing. :) - anthony

Innovation is the realization of a creative idea. Ed Roberts

Innovation is - Doing something different but better. - Jason Peck

Innovation is seeing and thinking what everyone else has, and coming up with a new twist on it. - Will

Innovation means creatively solving a problem that you didn't even know you had. – David Armano

Innovation is making the obvious easy for everyone. - Joe Marchese

Innovation is a place where everything old is new again, but better. - Rachel Haley

Challenging common practice with radical ideas/opportunities, in a hope to push forward. - Michael Sondak

Innovation is an idea or a radical change that gives birth to new dimensions never before conceived or explored. - Christian Bissainthe

Innovation is something that has the following three features:

· Never been done before

· Different means of implementation that addresses goals in a unique way

· Leveraging invention or evolution in products, technology or service to create a new path for success

Jordan Bitterman- 

Innovation is inspiration for sale. – Justin Evans

Innovation is energy, excitement, and advanced thought, all wrapped up in a brand new idea. – Rich Burg 

Innovation is simple: creative ideas executed within the limits of the problem/question.

(creative ideas are easy, innovation is difficult because you are activating a creative idea within the set limitations of defined by problem or question)

- Mike Hildebrandt

Innovation is: Mashing together a unique combination of ideas to create value. – Greg Johnson 

Innovation is shorthand for creative problem solving. - Steve Patrizi

Innovation is seeing the issue, understanding the problem, visualizing the solution and making it reality for all to participate. – Ken Ashley

Innovation is essentially doing what’s been done before in a crisp, forward fashion. – Luke Luckett

Innovation means never accepting the predictable. – Charles Whittingham

Innovation is the transformation from idea to reality. – Saul Shapiro

Innovation is the process through which something that wasn't becomes something that is. – Craig Lachman

An innovation is something that you didn't know you needed before it existed, but now that it's been created you can't live without it! - Tina Basle 

Innovation means...
-you'll first be laughed at and called a kook
-then kicked around
-then picked up and brushed off by someone courageous
-then celebrated as a genius

- Eric Ludwig

Innovation is not reinventing the wheel...it's allowing the wheel to operate at a capacity/level that it wasn't capable of prior. – Scott Buckler

Innovation is not simply about new technology or devices; it is about new ways of thinking.  To me, innovation means overcoming economic, societal, or technological barriers in order to create something new that changes the world, at least in a small way, for the better.  – Ryan Swagar


And perhaps my favorite satirical post

If you don’t mind, I’ll give you a funny one: “Innovation is whatever Steve Jobs says it is.” - Guy Kawasaki 

Thanks for all your participation and please feel free share!

Special thanks to Greg Verdino for all his assistance in getting this project off the ground running.