Personal Blog (scroll down)
Have You Thought About Innovation Recently?
Have You Thought About Innovation Recently?

Have You Thought About Innovation Recently?

2007. That’s the year touch interfaces rocked the world and turned how we seriously thought about computer interfaces upside down. It was the year the iPhone debuted. It was the epitome of new, of innovation.

jtpedersen_321-Ignite_Innovation_Abuse (2)5 years down the path and we see touch becoming increasingly pervasive. In some segments it dominates entire industry segments. Other segments, like tablets, are like the original Chrysler Minivan. They didn’t exist until someone created something new. Not just incremental improvement—true innovation.

As a product manager, responsible for the dreams, the vision underlying the product portfolios I am responsible for, events like these give reason to pause.

As we toil away in our own worlds, day to day, we need to ask ourselves: When was the last time we thought about the meaning of innovation? I’m willing to be it’s been awhile. After all, the word is bandied about like snow flakes on Christmas morning, so you haven’t needed to.

Like the word paradigm in the late 90s, ‘innovation’ has become so frequently used—and abused—as to have almost become meaningless. Companies would have us think of ‘innovation’ as something that resulted in the next incremental product release. Think Release 3.0, 3.1, 3.2. This would be a mistake, and one easy for us all to fall into. It’s new, therefore it’s ‘innovative,’ right? Is R3.1 really new or is it just ‘better’ than what came before?

To innovate means to ‘create something new.‘ Something that has not come before. Not a tweak to something done yesterday. True innovation happens all the time, all around us. However—my gut feel—suggests perhaps it’s more like 5% of what we see bandied about as ‘new.’ INNOVATION is what reveals itself to us as Release 1.0, 2.0, 3.0. The BIG Rs, not the little ‘r’s. And R1’s most of all.

So, I thought we might have a little fun and went digging to see what ‘innovative’ things are out there to be had.  Following, are some lovely examples where I think ‘innovation’ is being abused, however well-meaning:

Innovate Your Baby: 4 Simple Things You Should Be Doing With Your Infant Today

Look baby in the eyes.
Talk to your baby.
Show baby what you’re doing.
Let baby do what you’re doing.
Innovative Things | Steal as many ideas as possible.
Find people to follow on Twitter.
Find more of ‘my’ people.
Look for new products and services.
25 Random Things Innovative Educators Can Do sampling…
Go Paperless.
Visit schools.
Start a social network.
Join a social network.
Innovative Business Leadership I’ve used this as a resume tag line. Time to laugh at myself and shred it:)
20 Innovative Things You Can Do With Your Old iPhone Dock it to your Music box.
Use it with Skype.
Use it as a remote.
Sell/Donate it.
Backup iPhone (really?)
Kids Toy


It is easier to find things ‘called’ innovative, than it is actually innovative.  All the preceding are well-intended, contribute value to their audiences even, but none fall in the category of ‘new.’

Somehow, I just don’t see being able to get a patent for the innovative idea of letting my iPhone be a kids toy ;).

Image credit(s):
The feeling of touch – Abdulaziz Almansour

Elegant fractal design – Ivan Piven


  1. Great post, JT.

    I agree with you that terms are rapidly being abused, in our “sound-bite” world of trying to get recognition. I saw a good thread on this in a LinkedIn group. It rivaled one of the largest threads ever, I’m told. It asked “what is the difference between innovation and invention in five words?”

    The best definition was “Innovation is Invention Commercialized” in my opinion, and it was only four words. The implication here is that first, something must be invented, then that something must be commercially viable, and finally, must actually deliver that viability, in terms of some positive return on investment (makes money). If the last step is not achieved, it is invention for invention’s sake – the patent office has thousands of these kinds of inventions registered.

    Note 1, that processes can be invented, services, etc. Nothing says that an invention must be a physical product.
    Note 2, innovation, as such, can be in both commercial business environments, or commercial not-for-profit environments (yes, they must make an ROI too – they just have a different model and metrics for it.)

    In your examples, giving your kid your iPhone as a toy, certainly does not exhibit the first rule, of “invention.” or subsequent rules. I’m with you, let’s get back to basics and stop increasing ambiguity in well-defined terms.

    Andrew Stein, #SteinVox

    1. JT

      Hello Andrew,

      Appreciate your taking time to share your thoughts.

      I cannot say I agree with your requirement for the condition;).  I do not feel that, for something to be ‘innovative,’ it must also be commercialized.

      You can certainly create something truly ‘new,’ truly innovative, and elect to keep it for your own use. The primary difference between an innovation’s being held close to the vest, or commercialized, is whether anyone ever learns of the achievement.

      Perhaps others will share their own views.  We do both agree, "let’s get back to the basics…"



Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: