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:

    Who Is the Inventor? The Art of Determining Conception of an Idea

    In fields such as biotechnology and medical devices, where ideas and projects are often the product of extensive research and collaboration across various disciplines, inventorship choices can be intricate, sensitive, and complex.

    In the world of academia and research, scientists spend countless hours thinking, researching, experimenting, and finally, drafting manuscripts before sending them off to journal editors and reviewers. In the course of preparing each article, they may include as co-authors the names of other graduate and undergraduate students, thesis advisors, collaborators, and/or other individuals who gave them valuable feedback along the way.

    Such is the way of the research community, but not so when it comes to inventorship on patent applications. To most scientists, inventorship is rooted in collaboration, collective research, and, in some cases, seeming fairness. In fields such as biotechnology and medical devices, where ideas and projects are often the product of extensive research and collaboration across various disciplines, inventorship choices can be intricate, sensitive, and complex. However, the determination of proper inventorship is actually a complicated question of critical legal nature, with vast implications.

    Basically, an inventor is the individual who invented the subject matter of the invention.

    The rights bestowed upon inventors and owners of a patent to “exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling [their] invention” hinge particularly on the claims listed within a patent.[

    However, inventorship does not necessarily vest with those who contributed to the entirety or any part of the application, but only with those who contributed to the claims which are ultimately designated. Once the claims have been drafted, determining inventorship comes down to a question of “conception.”

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    IoT continues to push the demand on engineers. Are you ready?

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How can the fabric of a simple dress be part of our 5G vision?
    Explore use cases that illustrate how industries transformed by 5G will enrich people’s lives.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    “Socialism” vs. “capitalism” is a false dichotomy

    We need go-go capitalism to afford a generous welfare state, and people won’t support go-go capitalism without a safety net. “Socialists” and Republicans forget different parts of this lesson.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain

    Science suggests we’re hardwired to delude ourselves. Can we do anything about it?

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    South China Morning Post:
    How China is working to expand industrial robot usage tenfold to 1.8M units, 70% of which to be made in China, up from 30% currently, by 2025

    ‘Made In China 2025’: a peek at the robot revolution under way in the hub of the ‘world’s factory’

    In the second report in a series, He Huifeng and Celia Chen look at how Beijing’s ambitious industrial plan aims to break China’s reliance on foreign technology and pull its hi-tech industries up to Western levels

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    FreeTheTech Finds 5,784 Inventions Suppressed by U.S. Government Secrecy Orders

    The organization is looking to spread awareness of the suppression and bring greater transparency by creating a citizen review panel to assess the classified patents.

    As reported last month via PRNewswire, over 5,000 inventions are being suppressed via the U.S. Government’s classified patent program, according to official data obtained under a recent Freedom of Information Act request by the Federation of American Scientists. This means literally thousands of potentially ground-breaking inventions and technologies are being withheld from the public.

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Waiting for inspiration to strike?

    Picasso once said, “The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.” With all due respect to Picasso, science is telling us exactly what it takes to advance our creative output. This scientific approach to creativity makes a lot more sense to us engineers, who tend to need a little more logical reasoning and a little less haphazardness.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Braille on a Tablet Computer

    Signing up for college classes can be intimidating, from tuition, textbook requirements, to finding an engaging professor. Imagine signing up online, but you cannot use your monitor. We wager that roughly ninety-nine percent of the hackers reading this article have it displayed on a tablet, phone, or computer monitor. Conversely, “Only one percent of published books is available in Braille,” according to [Kristina Tsvetanova] who has created a hybrid tablet computer with a Braille display next to a touch-screen tablet running Android.

    Braille for a New Digital Age

    When she was a graduate student in her native Bulgaria about five years ago, Kristina Tsvetanova was once asked to help a blind friend sign up online for a class. Understanding why he could not do so opened her eyes to the lag in technological innovation to benefit blind and visually impaired people.

    “The shock that my friend couldn’t perform this simple task stayed with me,” Ms. Tsvetanova said in an interview.

    Ms. Tsvetanova, who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in industrial management and a master’s in engineering, knew that she had stumbled onto an untapped opportunity.

    “I realized that there was a gap in the market and a business opportunity in developing technology to provide access to content and services for the blind,” she said. “I am a second-generation entrepreneur, my father taught me to take risks.”


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