Innovation – Definition and Types

Innovation is an important concept to understand as a manager and for an organisation as a whole. Used in the correct manner, innovation can give an organisation the competitive advantage they need to be a success in their market. Firstly, it is useful to look at innovation in general. Innovations are ideas that are developed into new products or processes. They result in changes that customers recognize as new. Put in even simpler terms, innovation is the process of making improvements by introducing something new. Therefore, the two words that sum innovation up are ‘process’ and ‘new’.

Defining Innovation

Innovation is doing things in new ways in order to achieve significant results and make a huge difference in performance compared to others. Innovation’s goal is to have a positive change, to make someone or something better. Testing and evaluation of ideas is critical in achieving this goal. The ideas that do not work are identified through testing. Failure is an integral part of the innovation process. Failing means collecting data and evidence about the changes that organizations want to undergo. Innovation is defined as new ideas that work and a successful innovation can be achieved through the creation and implementation of new processes, products, services and methods of delivery which will result in significant improvements in the profitability and enhance the growth of an enterprise.

Innovation - Definition and Types

Innovation is a special case of planned change and learning that either transforms current products, services, and markets, or creates an entirely new market by introducing a radically new product or service. An organization is considered innovative if it stirs up the marketplace, by creating competitive pressures and new opportunities. It has been recognized that innovation success in an established organization requires balancing the stabilized efficiency of the current market offerings and building new capabilities to create and develop offerings for unknown markets.

The changes used to adapt the environment can be evaluated according to the scope and to the extent to which changes are incremental or radical for the organization. Incremental changes maintain the general equilibrium of the organization through a series of continual progressions and affect only one part in organization. On the contrast, radical changes, transform the entire organization. Incremental changes include technology improvements, such as the introduction of computer-integrated manufacturing or product improvements in the established structure and management processes. In radical changes, the technology is likely to be breakthrough, and new products created will establish new markets.

Importance of innovation seems to be the most talked management issue these days. Knowledge plays a crucial role in the economic processes because within the knowledge-based economy, innovation plays a central role and stands at the heart of economic change. Firms innovate to defend their competitive position as well as to achieve competitive advantage. Organizations possessing more knowledge outperform those with less. It was believed that an enterprise can maintain competitive advantage through quality and price. While today’s different researches have revealed that innovation is one of the most valuable differentiator for sustainable competitive advantage.

Innovation and Invention

There exists a clear distinction between invention and innovation. Invention is discovering of things never existed before while innovation is discovering how to introduce and commercialize new products, processes and new ways of adding customer value through innovative business models and management systems. Invention is defined as the generation of new ideas which have the potential to make someone or something better. New ideas can drawn from scanning other industries, by having conversations and meetings, or accessing information which is not usual in your business. All innovation’s starting point is invention of creative ideas. The distinction between them is; invention is having an idea about a service, product, technology or device, while innovation is the successful application of those ideas.

To conclude, Invention is the creation of a product, device or method that has never been made and existed before. So, every invention is an innovation. But every innovation is not an invention. When a company first publishes its website this is a major innovation for the company even though many other websites may already exist.

Innovation and Creativity

Creativity is defined as the process of thinking and generating new things, new concepts, and new ideas. Converting these thoughts into tangible things, bringing these ideas to life is innovation. Creativity is like dreaming up new things and innovation is making those dreams come true. Expressed in other words, creativity is the capability of conceiving something unusual or original while innovation is the implementation of those unusual or original things.

Types of Innovation

There exist four types of changes to achieve strategic edge within an organization. Managers can use these four types of changes to achieve competitive advantage in the international environment. Each company can have maximum impact upon the chosen market through its own unique configuration of technology, product and services, strategy and structure, and culture as explained below.

1. Technological Innovation

Technological innovations refer to changes in an organization’s production process to enable distinctive competence. Changes in an organization’s production process, including its knowledge and skills base, are designed to produce greater in volume or to have a more efficient production. Changes in technology involve the work methods, equipment, and work flow techniques for making products or services. For example, in a university, technology changes are about changes in methods for teaching the courses. Traditionally innovation has been associated with the use of technological knowledge, and research and development activities. A technological innovation is any innovation due to an industrial application of scientific knowledge.

Innovation involves the usage of new knowledge to transform organizational processes or create commercially viable products and services. The latest technology, results of experiments, creative insights, or competitive information may be the sources of new knowledge. However it comes about, innovation occurs when new combinations of ideas and information bring about positive change. Among the most important sources of new ideas is new technology. Technology creates new possibilities and provides the raw material that firms use to make innovative new products and services. But technology is not the only source of innovation. There can be innovations in human resources, firm infrastructure, marketing, service, or in many other value-adding areas that have little to do with anything “high-tech.”

2. Product and Service Innovation

Product and service innovations refer to the product or service outputs of an organization. New products may be in the form of entirely new product lines or small adaptions of existing products. New products are designed to develop new markets, or customers, or to increase the market share. Product innovation is about the introduction of new goods and services which have improvements in terms of design excellence, core characteristics, technical specifications etc. and are derived from customer or industry insight, or strategic alignment of the organization.

The old rule was to create safe and ordinary products that were combined with great marketing. The new rule is to create remarkable products and figure out a great theory by looking at what’s working in the real world and what the various successes have in common. Identify what the successful companies have in common and do something to be remarkable.

There is a clear distinction when discussing if innovation is between product/service innovation and process innovation. Product/Service innovation refers to efforts to develop new products or services for end users. Product/Service innovations tend to be more radical and are more common during the earlier stages of an industry’s life cycle. As an industry matures, there are fewer opportunities for newness, so the innovations tend to be more incremental. Process innovation, by contrast, is associated with improving the efficiency of an organizational process, especially manufacturing systems and operations. Process innovations occur in the later stages of an industry’s life cycle as companies seek ways to remain viable in markets where demand has flattened out and competition is more intensive. As a result, process innovations are often associated with overall cost leader strategies because the aim of many process improvements is to lower the cost of operations.

3. Strategy and Structural Innovation

Strategy and structural innovation refers to the administrative section in an organization. It is related to the management and supervision in the organization, including changes in an organization’s strategic management and structure, policies, accounting and budgeting systems, reward systems, labor relations, coordination devices, management information and control systems. Strategy and structure changes in an organization are mandated by top management. They usually have a top-down structure. An example may be if the corporate goes downsizing. On the other hand, product and technology changes may come from the bottom up.

4. Cultural Innovation

Cultural innovation refers to changes that may occur in an employee’s attitudes, beliefs, values, expectations, abilities, and behavior. Culture innovation tends to change the way employees think. These are changes in mindset rather than the technology, structure, or products and services.

Culture can be a powerful force undermining or shoring up the effectiveness of a nation, a business, and a manager. Recognizing the presence and power of culture will help in better navigating through the rough seas of international business. Discovering how to harness the power of culture in an organization will help the organization gain competitive advantage.

To conclude, it can be said that successful innovation in an organization occurs when technological and product or process innovations in the value chain are implemented through effective strategy and structure innovation. Innovation in an organization, which includes people, leadership, creativity, process and organizational culture, is the driver to grow, to achieve high profits and to succeed in the market. Innovation in an organization should be approached in a systematic way and not a piecemeal manner and should be initiated even at the lowest levels.

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