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Innovation - what it really is and how you can do it too

There’s been almost an obsession recently about innovation and that everybody should innovate, but from my experience, most people in organisations are quite confused and don’t know what to do when their boss says „you should innovate”. In this article I will try to shed a little bit of light on the innovation subject. What it is and how everybody can innovate in their organisations.

Innovation is not an invention

First things first. Innovation is not about creating something new but rather implementing a new idea or a method into practice. In this sense, innovators are not people that invented something but those that are first to use it. Many inventors are not innovators because their inventions are never used in practice. Therefore, if you want to be innovative it doesn’t mean that you have to invent something new. If you bring a new idea, concept or a process to your organisation you are an innovator. All you need to do is to harvest new ideas and bring them to your organisation.

Innovation is not always about a product

When we think about an innovation we often think about a product, a „thing”. But a lot of examples of being innovative can be found around the process of how things are done. The process innovations are sometimes even more important than product innovations. One of the examples of an innovative process can be Pilkington’s flat glass production process. Pilkington Glass disrupted an entire glass industry in the 1950s by inventing a new process of producing a flat glass. Not only the new process was creating a flat glass much cheaper but also the glass was a much better quality. It was still a flat glass but the process of making it was dramatically changed. It’s made Pilkington’s company billions of pounds to date. Think about how things are done in your organisation and remember there is always a better way of doing things. I encourage you to try to find it.

Innovation is not a continuous improvement

Innovation is about improving things but innovation is not only about doing things better but different and better. Continuous improvement process is looking for a continuous, incremental improvement that will probably make a big difference over time. Innovation is about saying „let’s start from scratch and let’s see how this can be done much better” revolutionising it completely. This is what Alastair Pilkington did with his flat glass production process in the 1950s.

Innovation is a risk

Innovation as great as it can be it also carries some risks. Especially in big projects where there is a lot at stake and a lot of risk. There is no need to increase that risk by using innovative, untested technology and processes. Contractors of the Crossrail project, openly admit, that they’ve decided not to innovate because of too much risk it takes to use an innovative technology and processes. They’re using a modern technology in the project but only technology and processes that are reliable and have proven to work.

Summary

Pilkington’s example proves that being innovative pays off . But, there are also some risks involved in every innovation project. As long as you take a calculated risk and you can afford to fail I encourage you to innovate in everything you do. Innovation is exciting and changes the world and organisations for the better.