“Hello, and welcome to What Is Innovation, a podcast that explores the reality of a word that is in danger of losing its meaning altogether.”
As someone who has just authored a book on innovation, host Jared Simmons’ introduction to his podcast last week gave me pause for thought.
Admittedly, it had to be a brief pause, because I was about to go live with him as his guest that day. But Jared has posed an important question, and one that I’ve been thinking about a little more since our lively conversation the other day.
He’s also right: The word “innovation” is used widely, and often indiscriminately.
We saw this in writing “The Innovation Mindset,” where we had to frequently resort to the thesaurus, to avoid repeating the word “Innovation” five times in a paragraph.
We see this in academia, where some of us are trying to develop college courses and executive education programs around innovation. But exactly where does such a program belong in the curriculum: In a Small Business class? As part of a Data Science department? Or maybe even the Film and Theater area?
Trying to locate innovation within its “proper” discipline, in turn, raises further questions:
Is being innovative synonymous with being entrepreneurial? Is someone starting a small business, by definition, an innovator? And should the term even be limited to business? Some see close parallels in the word “creativity.” Are the creative minds turning out new shows on Netflix, or staging a new play on Broadway innovators?
Lots of questions. And I have some answers — or at least, informed opinions:
As I see it, entrepreneurship and innovation do have something in common. They both involve creating or starting something new.
For an entrepreneur, that’s “new” as in new business. And his or her focus is on exactly that: the start, the launch and early phases of a new business entity.
For the innovator, it’s also about something new. That, too, could mean a new organization, but it could also be a new idea; a new process, a new way of thinking.
As for creativity, I like the Oxford English Language definition: the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
So, while innovation and creative are related concepts, as is the case with innovation and entrepreneurship, they’re not identical.
At least, that’s how I see it. I welcome your thoughts. I also commend podcaster and consultant Jared Simmons for helping raise these provocative and important questions. And I thank him for his great interview on What Is Innovation. I hope you’ll take a listen.