Searching for innovation

Innovation is about finding a better way of doing something. Like many of the new development buzzwords (which many of them are over-used on many business documents), the concept of innovation originates from the world of business. It refers to the generation of new products through the process of creative entrepreneurship, putting it into production, and diffusing it more widely through increased sales. Innovation can be viewed as t he application of better solutions that meet new requirements, in-articulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and, as a consequence, new, that “breaks into” the market or society.

Innoveracy: Misunderstanding Innovation article points out that  there is a form of ignorance which seems to be universal: the inability to understand the concept and role of innovation. The way this is exhibited is in the misuse of the term and the inability to discern the difference between novelty, creation, invention and innovation. The result is a failure to understand the causes of success and failure in business and hence the conditions that lead to economic growth. The definition of innovation is easy to find but it seems to be hard to understand.  Here is a simple taxonomy of related activities that put innovation in context:

  • Novelty: Something new
  • Creation: Something new and valuable
  • Invention: Something new, having potential value through utility
  • Innovation: Something new and uniquely useful

The taxonomy is illustrated with the following diagram.

The differences are also evident in the mechanisms that exist to protect the works: Novelties are usually not protectable, Creations are protected by copyright or trademark, Inventions can be protected for a limited time through patents (or kept secret) and Innovations can be protected through market competition but are not defensible through legal means.

Innovation is a lot of talked about nowdays as essential to businesses to do. Is innovation essential for development work? article tells that innovation has become central to the way development organisations go about their work. In November 2011, Bill Gates told the G20 that innovation was the key to development. Donors increasingly stress innovation as a key condition for funding, and many civil society organisations emphasise that innovation is central to the work they do.

Some innovation ideas are pretty simple, and some are much more complicated and even sound crazy when heard first. The is place for crazy sounding ideas: venture capitalists are gravely concerned that the tech startups they’re investing in just aren’t crazy enough:


Not all development problems require new solutions, sometimes you just need to use old things in a slightly new way. Development innovations may involve devising technology (such as a nanotech water treatment kit), creating a new approach (such as microfinance), finding a better way of delivering public services (such as one-stop egovernment service centres), identifying ways of working with communities (such as participation), or generating a management technique (such as organisation learning).

Theorists of innovation identify innovation itself as a brief moment of creativity, to be followed by the main routine work of producing and selling the innovation. When it comes to development, things are more complicated. Innovation needs to be viewed as tool, not master. Innovation is a process, not a one time event. Genuine innovation is valuable but rare.

There are many views on the innovation and innvation process. I try to collect together there some views I have found on-line. Hopefully they help you more than confuze. Managing complexity and reducing risk article has this drawing which I think pretty well describes innovation as done in product development:

8 essential practices of successful innovation from The Innovator’s Way shows essential practices in innovation process. Those practices are all integrated into a non-sequential, coherent whole and style in the person of the innovator.

In the IT work there is lots of work where a little thinking can be a source of innovation. Automating IT processes can be a huge time saver or it can fail depending on situation. XKCD comic strip Automation as illustrates this:

XKCD Automation

System integration is a critical element in project design article has an interesting project cost influence graphic. The recommendation is to involve a system integrator early in project design to help ensure high-quality projects that satisfy project requirements. Of course this article tries to market system integration services, but has also valid points to consider.

Core Contributor Loop (CTTDC) from Art Journal blog posting Blog Is The New Black tries to link inventing an idea to theory of entrepreneurship. It is essential to tune the engine by making improvements in product, marketing, code, design and operations.






  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Syntyykö yrityksessäsi ideoita vai innovaatioita?

    Innovaatio-onnistujia yhdistää kolme asiaa:

    1. Fokus on siirretty ideoinnista tulokseen ja suuren organisatorisen muutoksen tavoitteluun innovaatioiden avulla.

    2. Ymmärretään, että idea on aito innovaatio vasta sitten, kun se tuottaa viivan alle positiivisen tuloksen.

    3. Pienen ja vähittäin tapahtuvan parantamisen sijaan tavoitellaan heti merkittävää parannusta. Tätä kutsutaan Moonshot-ajatteluksi, joka pitää tuoda innovaatioagendan ytimeen. Kaikista ideoista ei synny uutta Amazon Web Services -palvelua, mutta sitä pitää tavoitella

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A Future of Genetically Engineered Children Is Closer Than You’d Think

    US scientists edited a human embryo for the first time. That’s just the beginning.

    Genetically modified babies given go ahead by UK ethics body

    The Nuffield Council on Bioethics says changing the DNA of a human embryo could be ‘morally permissible’ if it is in the child’s best interests

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Genetically modifying future children isn’t just wrong. It would harm all of us

    Genome editing for human embryos is an unnecessary threat to society. Why has the Nuffield Council of Bioethics endorsed it?

    Chinese scientist claims to have created ‘world’s first genetically edited babies’

    A Chinese researcher claims he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies – twin girls whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    World’s first gene-edited babies created in China, claims scientist

    Unconfirmed scientific breakthrough sparks ethical and moral concerns

    EXCLUSIVE: Chinese scientists are creating CRISPR babies

    A daring effort is under way to create the first children whose DNA has been tailored using gene editing.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Companies using safety to improve productivity, profitability

    A survey from LNS Research finds companies are using safety to improve productivity and profitability as well as mitigate risks. The study also found there are plenty of areas for companies to improve.

    According to a survey by LNS Research, industrial companies are using safety to not only mitigate risks but also to improve productivity and profitability. Organizations are using the three core elements of safety maturity–safety culture, procedures and technologies–to avoid safety incidents and improve business performance. In addition, risk management increasingly includes safety and security risks.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Future of Weapons Engineering

    Hopefully, with the help of engineers, future wars can be fought in a more peaceful way with smarter weapons that protect the interests of soldiers and civilians alike

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Entering the World of the Mini Makers

    In a time where there are increasing concerns all across Europe about filling the growing number of STEM-related jobs and how to go about addressing the widening skills gap, there is more impetus than ever to encourage both young children and teenagers to become more engineering savvy. Consequently, we have seen a considerable surge in the educational toy market over the last few years, with a plethora of exciting new product offerings coming to the fore.

    Getting ‘hands-on’ with technology is not actually that new of course. I grew up in the days when Meccano was at the height of its popularity – with most boys my age owning kits. Things have moved on significantly though. Back then, Meccano solely catered for would-be mechanical engineers and was predominantly male-focused. Now the objective is to encompass a broader spectrum of engineering disciplines – and also appeal, in equal proportions, to both males and females alike.

    Produced by a mixture of established brands and newer firms, a diverse range of child-friendly maker platforms has emerged. Despite each one taking its own distinctive form, all of them tend to share common goals. These are to make technological creativity more accessible, elevate the levels of engagement (whether this is in a classroom environment or back home) and, as much as possible, keep the barriers to entry low (so kids that aren’t put off at an early stage, because everything looks too complicated).

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Why there’s no such thing as a gifted child

    Even Einstein was unexceptional in his youth. Now a new book questions our fixation with IQ and says adults can help almost any child become gifted

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Intel’s Faith McCreary considers some of the pain points in IIoT and the transformation to Industry 4.0 plus five strategies for making it easier.

    Five Strategies for Leading an Intelligent Factory Transformation

    For leaders working to engage their entire workforce in support of intelligent factory transformation, here are five strategies to consider:

    1. Share the vision of the intelligent factory and the path forward with everyone in your organization, including line workers and managers.
    2. Engage workers who may be impacted by change.
    3. Connect and integrate processes and involve stakeholders at all levels, inside and outside of the company. Industry 4.0 and the IIOT technologies that support it are not static solutions.
    4. Invest in ongoing workforce training. Education and training will prepare workers for technology transformation while helping to ensure the cultural and behavioral evolution needed to support change. Leaders committed to Industry 4.0 need to avoid the misconception that training will increase attrition rates, and instead view workforce training as part of the company’s investment in building new skills.
    5. Prepare for change by making the intelligent factory transformation part of a new company mindset. As we discussed in another recent blog post, change is constant.

    The Intelligent Factory Transformation Is a Journey, Not a Destination

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    EIT announces two winning innovation communities in manufacturing and urban mobility

    Two dynamic new partnerships join Europe’s largest innovation network. They will bring Europe’s innovators together to create a better and more sustainable future for citizens.


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