An innovation definition doesn’t need to say much … it just needs to exist

The trouble with innovation is that by definition it’s a broad concept. With something so large and unwieldy, how can it ever be truly managed?

It’s a question we’ve been asked many times over many years. If everything can be an innovation then nothing is an innovation – so how do we even begin to define what our organization’s strategy really is?

It’s actually a very important conversation to have. The most innovative companies we know often start with a fractured sense for how they manage change and growth through innovation:

“It’s only about breakthrough ideas.”

“It's about small-process ideas and also big ideas.”

“It's about managing the process of executing on big ideas.”

“It's about getting the voice of the customer included in your ideas.”

Eventually they come around to sharing a sense of what innovation should be. If the leadership team doesn't have a clear understanding and vision for innovation, employees will not either. Therefore, there's no chance of using innovation as a strategic lever to drive growth in the organization.

Ultimately your innovation definition should be the implied answer to “Why We Innovate/Our Goal.”

“Defining innovation so broadly has important benefits,” said Procter & Gamble COO Bob McDonald in 2008. “The simple fact is that we create many more innovation opportunities because we’re looking in more places, we’re working with more partners, and we’re trying to meet more needs. A narrower definition would severely limit our ability to improve so many parts of so many people’s lives.”

It doesn’t have to say much but an innovation definition does need to exist, as both a unifying mission statement and as a directional goal, if an organization is going to be purposeful with its strategy for achieving breakthroughs.

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