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:

    IP3: An Amazon for Patents

    The Industry Patent Purchase Program, as IP3 is officially called, is an online platform that connects patent sellers with large tech companies such as Ford, Google, Philips, Spotify, and Verizon. Run annually, the program’s latest iteration kicks off on 15 July.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Tylsisty, niin muutut luovemmaksi ja älykkäämmäksi

    Tylsistyminen on tutkimusten mukaan avain luovuuteen, älykkyyteen ja innovatiivisuuteen.

    Joutilaisuus on tietoinen päätös olla tekemättä mitään ja sen harjoittaminen saattaa muuttaa elämäsi.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Computer Science Could Learn A Lot From Library And Information Science

    Computer science curriculums have long emphasized the power of data, encouraging its harvesting and hoarding, pioneering new ways of mining and manipulating users through it, reinforcing it as the path to riches in the modern economy and proselytizing the idea of data being able to solve all of society’s ills. In contrast, library and information science curriculums have historically emphasized privacy, civil liberties and community impact, blending discussion of public data management with private data minimization. Tomorrow’s future technology leaders could learn much from their library-minded colleagues.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    trying to explain a project to someone unfamiliar with the underlying technogy is an interesting intellectual exercise.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Elon Musk unveils Neuralink’s plans for brain-reading ‘threads’ and a robot to insert them

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Car seat alarm could save babies’ lives: Siblings team up to design safety feature,186504

    “We had heard about a lot of car deaths and children being left in hot cars, so we wanted a way to fix that,” said Lydia Denton, 11. “We came up with this idea, and we all kind of worked together to see what does it need to make sure that they are safe.”

    The three homed in on how to achieve their goal using a parts from a $60 starter kit from the open-source hardware and software company Arduino.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Reetta Kivelä: There will be no in­nov­a­tions without science

    Innovations never come out of nothing. A technology or solution related to an innovation may come about by accident, it might be there right in front of your eyes, but it never comes out of nothing. Innovations require strata of knowledge and a history of experience. Innovations require big pictures and an understanding of the world. These factors have their origins in science.

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Tutkijat: Luovuus ja mielenterveysongelmat kulkevat käsi kädessä

    Etenkin kirjoittajilla esiintyy skitsofreniaa selvästi useammin kuin ihmisillä, jotka eivät tee luovaa työtä, ruotsalaistutkijat ovat vahvistaneet. Tulosten mukaan taiteilijoita ja tieteilijöitä kasvaa todennäköisemmin suvuissa, joissa on havaittu muun muassa kaksisuuntaista mielialahäiriötä.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How Successful People Stay Calm

    New research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    What Engineers and Shamans Have in Common

    And no less should be demanded of the engineer writ large. “The great mission of the engineer,” Bush insisted, “lies in intelligent, aggressive, devoted ministration to the people.”

    The ideal of “ministering to the people” isn’t the animating principle behind required courses in university EE programs nor does it translate easily into a code of conduct for individual engineers. Bush’s model for the social role of the engineer is frankly revelatory and even revolutionary. His model is aspirational, situation-dependent, protean—and well-suited for times in which the stuff humans build destabilize traditional ways of life and undermine longstanding values

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    MEGAMIND ‘Google brain’ implants could mean end of school as anyone will be able to learn anything instantly

    An expert believes that within the next 20 years, our heads will be boosted with special implants so ‘you won’t need to memorise anything’

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    New From Pew: A Deepening Distrust Of Higher Education And Other American Institutions

    A recent Pew survey shows Americans’ increasing dissatisfaction with higher education, and it’s becoming more partisan.

    Americans are increasingly skeptical about the impact of their colleges and universities, a trend driven, but not defined, by political partisanship.

    According to Pew, only 50% of Americans now believe that colleges and universities are having a positive effect on the way things are going in America, and 38% say they are having a negative effect. Democrats remain much more positive about higher education than Republicans

    Higher education leaders are faced with the following stark reality: the majority of U.S. citizens believe that higher education is going in the wrong direction.

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Software Engineering Grads Lack the Skills Startups Need

    Today’s software engineering programs teach students traditional skills tailored to large employers—subjects like software processes, software analysis, project management, and software management. But startups and next-gen technology companies expect a dynamic and in-depth understanding of the software ecosystem and its tools from new graduates. They want grads who can build scalable systems and program for large-scale, distributed, data-intensive systems that leverage cloud computing.

    For example, a significant amount of time is spent studying and practicing strict adherence to software engineering processes. But organizations, especially technology-focused ones, use simplified, agile software processes. On the topic of software architecture, he says, the curriculum focuses more on documentation than application design

    Students are taught formal testing methods such as static analysis, which checks code without actually running it. This helps them understand how to test software programs, but it doesn’t address the testing of distributed systems, web services, and infrastructure resiliency.

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Freshly-minted engineers are leveraging tools like machine learning to open up new fields.

    All Engineering Knowledge Has an Expiration Date. The Trick Is to Know When

    These engineers were really skilled. I was greatly impressed by their depth of knowledge and facility with analysis. How did they learn so much in their few years of university training? After all, there is so much more to know now than there used to be, and every year it gets ever more overwhelming.

    One explanation is that, as new knowledge accumulates, some old knowledge becomes irrelevant and falls off the knowledge stack.

    Perhaps every course should have a sell-by date.

    I remember too when the technical library in the lab where I worked was shut down and all the books were offered free to the staff. Almost all of them went unclaimed; no one wanted them. The problem is that we never quite know when a particular course or book will become obsolete.

    But the purging of obsolete knowledge is probably insufficient in itself to make room for the new stuff, as there seems to be an exponential increase in knowledge. The complexity of our work is always increasing, similar to the increase in entropy decreed by the second law of thermodynamics.

    New engineers often enter fields that have become well plowed, and so find themselves pushing against physical and theoretical limitations. The issues are complex, and the incremental gains may be small.

    but fortunately new fields and new techniques open up periodically, and engineers rush in to take advantage.

    As the new engineers come out of school, they are also empowered by the continual rise of new tools.

    I remember when we used to wander down the halls asking other engineers how to solve some problem. Now we put our questions to the computer, and by doing so, ask all the other engineers and scientists of the networked world. You don’t have to know everything yourself, only how to ask the questions.

    So the challenge is great, but these graduates are up to it.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Two News Stories From Abroad Suggest American Education Is On The Wrong Track

    News about schools in England and Finland challenge a prevailing assumption in American education–that it’s better for students to learn on their own than to be explicitly taught.

    Too often, American education reformers and policymakers have called for emulating other seemingly successful systems without taking into account the myriad differences between any two countries. An approach that has worked in one place won’t necessarily produce the same results in another.

  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The STEM Crisis Is a Myth

    You must have seen the warning a thousand times: Too few young people study scientific or technical subjects, businesses can’t find enough workers in those fields, and the country’s competitive edge is threatened.

    It pretty much doesn’t matter what country you’re talking about—the United States is facing this crisis, as is Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Brazil, South Africa, Singapore, India…the list goes on. In many of these countries, the predicted shortfall of STEM (short for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workers is supposed to number in the hundreds of thousands or even the millions.

    The situation is so dismal that governments everywhere are now pouring billions of dollars each year into myriad efforts designed to boost the ranks of STEM workers.

    And yet, alongside such dire projections, you’ll also find reports suggesting just the opposite—that there are more STEM workers than suitable jobs. One study found, for example, that wages for U.S. workers in computer and math fields have largely stagnated since 2000.

    And what that dissection reveals is that there is indeed a STEM crisis—just not the one everyone’s been talking about. The real STEM crisis is one of literacy: the fact that today’s students are not receiving a solid grounding in science, math, and engineering.

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Using Supply Chain Management To Drive Innovation In Healthcare

    Healthcare supply chain management has changed dramatically over the last few years.

    supply chain management teams have moved from focusing almost solely on transactions to focusing on decision support. Now our contracting team focuses on analytics, savings, and process improvement, and our logistics team focuses on day-to-day operations. As healthcare continues to evolve, we’ll need to work with less and do more.

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Top 10 Trending Technologies

    1: Artificial Intelligence
    2: Blockchain
    3: Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
    4: Cloud Computing
    5: Angular and React
    6: DevOps
    7: Internet of Things (IoT)
    8: Intelligent Apps (I – Apps)
    9: Big Data
    10: RPA (Robotic Process Automation)

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Convincing And Confusing Value Of College Explained

    The value of college, once taken for granted by most people, has steadily intensified as a point of debate. It’s been the source of countless news articles and dinner table discussions. Many of these stories and discussions simply leave us all more confused. So here’s my summary – in clear and simple terms – about the value of college

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How We Rank America’s 100 Most Innovative Leaders

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    5 askelta helppoon IoT-kokeiluun

    Monen suomalaisen yrityksen ulottuvilla olisi matalalla roikkuvia hedelmiä, jos ne tarttuisivat IoT-maailman mahdollisuuksiin. Liiketoimintaa hyödyttäviin mahdollisuuksiin kuitenkin pääsee kiinni vain yhdellä tavalla: kokeilemalla itse.

    Kokeilemisen kynnys on tänä päivänä hyvin matala. Ratkaisevaa on päätös toimia ja aloittaa IoT-kokeiluprojekti. On tavallista, että aluksi innoittaa odotus kustannussäästöistä, mutta projektin kuluessa silmät kannattaa pitää auki. Usein sensoreiden data auttaa näkemään uusia, fiksumpia mahdollisuuksia kehittää liiketoimintaa ja luoda uusia palveluita. Yritys voi löytää IoT-ratkaisun, josta kasvaa koko toimialan muutosvoima.

  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    University of Cincinnati’s
    Master of Electrical Engineering

    Electromagnetic Energy Conversion
    Concurrent Product / Process Quality Engineering
    Trustworthy Embedded Systems
    Intelligent Systems Theory
    Advanced Microsystems 1
    Advanced Microsystems 2
    Effectiveness in Technical Organizations
    Instrumentation and Industrial Control
    Embedded Systems 1
    Embedded Systems 2
    Meng Capstone
    Management of Innovation

    For more information about the
    curriculum details:

  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How to open source your academic work in 7 steps

    Open source technology and academia are the perfect match. Find out how to meet tenure requirements while benefiting the whole community.

  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    7 ways to encourage continuous improvement

    Sweeping transformations aren’t the only area where you need change agents. Here’s how to find and nurture people who are eager to make incremental, daily changes

  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Ruokaa ilmasta tuottava suomalaisyhtiö sai maailman suurimman design-palkinnon


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *