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The innovation discipline

I am reposting a comment I left on Scott Berkun’s Harvard blog post which he titled “Why Innovation is overrated”


As a couple of others have pointed out, you seem to be differentiating innovation based on semantics and you definitely are confusing it with invention in parts of your blog post.

“These are all companies that figured out how to make really good, high quality, affordable things. None of these companies were the first in their field: Apple did not invent the cell-phone, nor the touchscreen. Google did not invent the search engine nor pay per click advertising. Pixar did not make the first motion picture. And even if they were the first, the world would not care. We care because they made things we love. Making good things people love is the true spine of these companies successes, and it’s a stronger framework for managers to use when trying to learn from their examples.”

Innovation is not invention
Innovation does not require you to be first to market
Innovation is not just about products
But you could say..Innovation is a disciplined approach to creating great products/services.

Another point you made was ..

“The truth is making really good things is difficult — it requires a commitment to craft, an attention to detail, and a love for work that has always been rare. And while we’d never call these three attributes innovations, it’s the success of creating an organization that rewards these things that leads to the products we often herald, after they’re done, as innovations. “

You are correct in that it doesn’t matter what you call it while your are doing it. But with the definition above, you’ve really not describing anything specific or prescriptive. I would argue that just as management frameworks are the collection and systemization of practices already in the industry, innovation is the development of principles and frameworks of approaches to “making really good products/services” which are already in the industry.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the innovation approach is popular now. Industries who have already adopted management practices, TQM, Lean, Six Sigma and numerous others which have come out of the many business schools are now looking for the next discipline which will allow them to compete successfully in a global economy by making great products/services.

If you really want to get a better sense of the emergence of the innovation discipline from what used to be a diffused and fragmented process, I would recommend talking to companies like GravityTank, IDEO, Ziba, Jump or go visit the Institute of Design.