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’


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