It used to be that either you were innovative or not.
Either you came up with out of the box thinking, new paradigms for doing things, cool new designs, and products and services using the latest and greatest technology--or you would eventually be dead in the marketplace and life.
Now as things seem to slow down a little on the innovators front--we're echtzing and krechtzing (hemming and hawing) about what is innovation anyway?
The Wall Street Journal (5 October 2012) wrote about "The Innovator's Enigma"--asking whether incremental innovation is real innovation.
For example, when P&G took the sleepy, drowsy part of the medication of NyQuil and made it into it's own medicine called ZzzQuil--was that innovative or just "incremental, derivative."
The article notes that big periods of explosive upheavals in innovation are often followed by "period of consolidation and then by valuable incremental innovation involving the same product."
It's almost like a lets face it--you can't have the equivalent of the iPhone created every day--or can you?
When after the iPhone, people now ask for an iFighter (WSJ, 24 July 2012) and the real iRobot (like envisioned in the movie with Will Smith)--aren't we talking about applying real breakthrough innovation to every facet of our lives?
With Apple coming forward with the integration model of innovation bringing together hardware and software --the bar has been raised on the expectation for innovation not just being functionally excellent, but design cool. Now, Fast Company states (October 2012), "good design is good business."
But even then innovation is questioned as to its real meaning and impact with Bloomberg BusinessWeek (2 August 2012) stating that "it's easier to copy than to innovate" and "being inspired by a good product and seeking to make even better products is called competition."
Here's another from Harvard Business Review (April 2012) called "Celebrate Innovation, No Matter Where It Occurs" that calls out "adjacencies" as bona fide innovation too, where an adjacency is exploiting "related and nearby opportunities." since inventions are often so large that "inventor's can't exploit them alone" and there are associated opportunities for other (think of new cool iPhone cases for the new cool iPhone).
One more thing I learned recently is that innovation isn't just the great new product or service offering, but how you use it.
With Newsweek (17 September 2012), calling into question the iPhone's "awkward invasion of the lavatory" with "not just phones, but tablets and e-readers and even our laptops" replacing the good 'ol Reader's Digest in the bathrooms around the world, then things have truly changed deep culturally and not just superficially technologically.
This message was brought home last year, when a friend told me how they dropped their iPhone in the toilet leading to a speedy drowning death for the smartphone, now not looking too smart anymore.
So innovation come in all shapes and sizes and can be mega big, incremental small, derivative, or even adjacent--the important thing is that we keep our thinking caps on and working towards better, faster, and cheaper all the time.
Sometimes, I do look back and miss things or ways of doing them from the past, so innovation isn't always--just by definition--a good thing, but what we really come up with and how we apply it perhaps can make all the difference.
The perfect example for me is carving out some genuine space and quiet time to really think about life and innovate in what has become a 24/7 now always-on society that demands innovation but that often squashes it with incessant noise.
Turn down the noise, let innovation thrive afresh, and be sure you make a genuine difference, and whatever type it is that it is not just as they would say in Hebrew school more dreck (junk) or another narrishkeit (foolishness) in the making.
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)