Business strategy

Innovate or Die

18 of August of 2011

Innovation: Crying wolf?Innovation is currently a buzzword. For example, in his State of the Union Address, Barack Obama emphasized the importance of innovation for the US to maintain its leading position.

Obama highlighted the importance of a commitment to innovation and technology and announced new investments in education, infrastructure and R&D for the US to remain competitive. Highlights from his speech include:

  • We will move forward together, or not at all, for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.”
  • The rules have changed. In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and do business. Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100.”
  • “None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do — what America does better than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people.”

Even though Obama is talking about the US, there are clear and important parallels with business which provide food for thought.

In business today, it’s also necessary to move forward together, as the speed of change in technology and the world itself (finance, politics, society…) is so great that only through creativity and innovation will we be able to respond to the increasingly intense, complex challenges that lie before us.

But let me start from the beginning and ask a question: What is innovation? In my experience, innovation is not the same for everyone:

One useful definition is that “innovation is the profitable implementation of ideas that meet business challenges/needs.” To simplify, I see a formula (we engineers love formulas):

Innovation = Idea + Profitable Implementation


So it’s not just about inventions that arise from research; it’s also about using those inventions in the market (as a new product or process, using a combination of technologies in a new way, or new forms of organization) to solve a business problem, providing us with profitable progress and growth.

In conclusion, I encourage you to check out the wikipedia link, where you will find more definitions and information about innovation. And I wonder… what’s your formula for innovation?

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