What is Innovation?

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Innovation is one of the most important keywords of our times in management.  Every manager knows what comes to mind when you think “innovation”.  It’s companies like Google and Apple, Silicon Valley meeting rooms where people lounge around on bean bags and have nap times or offices without desks.  Yet the true meaning of innovation is simply “the introduction of new things or methods” and there is a different kind of innovation for every company.  Not every company needs to innovate at all, either.

In this article, some of the latest research and thinking on innovation in business is outlined.

Tim Kastelle’s Innovation Matrix

Tim Kastelle blogs on innovation in business.  Recently, Kastelle has developed a matrix which is to be used as a tool for tracking innovation.  Kastelle opines that many businesses which are not innovative at all by nature think that by giving some airtime to innovation as a corporate value and putting aside money and time to nurturing innovation, they can overnight become a company that has innovation in its very DNA such as Apple.  Apple’s logo has become entwined into popular culture and come to symbolize Apple’s corporate culture and innovative values.  Strong and easily-recognized logos used on promotional objects that are popular into themselves and can be highly effective marketing tools for companies whose logos have become part of popular culture, as with Shell, Volkswagen, Nike, and MasterCard among others.  This can then engender innovation.  This is an enviable state of affairs without question, but not one that every company should aspire to.  Kastelle feels that by gradually increasing the commitment to innovation in the culture of the company, the competency of the company to innovate will also increase in a grounded, stable way.

Of course, structure can be viewed as an opposition to innovation.  Strategy and innovation are not the same; strategy is more systematic and logical, whereas innovation depends more on an intuitive exploration that often cannot be mapped out for your company beforehand.

Innovation Horizons

seeking new professional development horizons

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The three-horizons model of innovation is a simple, effective way to see how different types of innovation works while not attempting to systematize it so much that these creative bursts of inspiration are blocked.

In the first horizon rest the most familiar concerns of your company – the existing technologies and markets that must continue to be served and refined.  As these things are provided, innovation occurs, but very much built on what already exists.  Often, the people who suggest these innovations are ones already connected to your company – employees or customers.

In the second rest markets and technologies that do exist, but are not currently utilized by your company.  These are best probed using market research or outside product development experts.

The third horizon contains the unfamiliar and undiscovered markets and technology that you can probe with full-out innovation.  These are ideas that research and development labs are designed to produce.

Not every company needs to focus on all three types of innovation.  Depending on which type is being pursued, different management styles and techniques should be used.  If more than one horizon is being focused on, all horizons must continue to be efficiently managed and resources must be delegated wisely so that none of these horizons is neglected by the excessive nourishing of another.

Key Points to Consider

While it can be hard to manage innovation, managers can clarify situations so that innovation can more easily occur.  This can involve streamlining your ultimate goal or product and laying out a clear goal for innovation to help you reach.  After doing that, you can more easily identify who else to bring in to help you refine things and attain your goal.

The importance of research within innovation

Basic research, although often outsourced, can help innovation when done  within a company if your company is good at utilizing findings.  An example of a company that is good at it is IBMFor those companies that need to outsource, new solutions include companies like InnoCentive can let you tap into their existing network of thinkers and practitioners who can help you develop new solutions.

The companies that are best at innovation are the ones that manage to build the above and more into the fabric of their company in a steady, sustainable way that is realistic for the company.  They stay realistic and do not neglect one area at the expense of another.

Video Resource

This Ted talk by Guy Kowasaki is about 22 minutes but it is worth the time to learn from one of the leading marketers today.


You can do it!  Go get ’em and good luck!


Michael D. Moore is the publisher of Management By Delegation and is a veteran executive with 40+ years in the Banking and Insurance Industries. A devoted entrepreneur, using his business experience to provide resources for managers and leaders at all levels. For the last 5 years, he has built a growing web presence for helping people with personal and professional development. To learn more about these advanced concepts & join our group Click here 5 Must Have Management Skills

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