This article was prompted whilst reading a very long winded debate about the differences between Innovation and continuous improvement. The contributions were many, and most were completely valid statements, however not all were directed at the question that was posed.
Sifting through the answers I sorted them into two streams. There were points about Innovation being a continuum with incremental at one end and radical at the other, building upon existing bases versus new ones and many more. The main issue, I concluded, was one of language or more importantly, grammar.
Some contributors were referring to Innovation and some to Innovations. What is the difference? Well Innovation is the ‘system’ that produces Innovations e.g. the processes that exist to generate ideas, manage know how, prototype etc as well as the necessary behaviours. Innovations are the outputs of the process e.g shiny new gadgets, remote controlled teabags.
Some of the participants seemed to get very irate, they were convinced that they were right. They were right of course, but only within their own frames of reference. When communicating with those who had other frames of reference things went awry. It might be a pain but this highlighted one very important point. Create and use a common language for your wider frame of reference (your organisation or your close collaborators). Simple! And to avoid doubt do not use buzz words such as Innovation.
Talk about the things you are going to do and how you might accomplish them. In the wider world the term Innovation can mean everything, or nothing.