Article - An essay in the management myths series!

Innovation - an overused, empty word?

Innovation and innovation, but where is it? The smartphone, the television we are talking to? Or a shower handset that uses little water and is just as moisturising? The differences are immediately apparent. What makes these innovations different is the level of technology. What is an innovation? If we were to quote definitions, it would turn out that innovation has different levels and different scopes. However, we will explain these definitions in a moment. For us, an innovation is something groundbreaking; we would most like to call it a cure for cancer or a teleporter. For an entrepreneur, an innovation might be changing a cam in an engine to make it cost less. For us customers, it will only be a cheaper product with the same functionality, i.e. progress (hence Business, Progress, Innovation - BPI), and not immediately innovation. So we have differences in the perception of innovation. Another problem is the overuse of the word innovation by entrepreneurs when applying for EU subsidies or when promoting their service or product. The words progress or optimisation are not used because they are not so catchy. Additionally, EU grants require innovation, so entrepreneurs (or those writing EU projects) just make it up. Only then it is just a word, a description, not a product or a service. Nothing follows this innovation, nobody implements it, nobody buys it. Let's leave the overused, empty word innovation and consider what it should mean, and whether it can bring real value to a company.

To begin with, we need to look at innovation through reference points - geographical.

  • For a small city, innovation will be a tram, for a large city, a metro, for a very large one, a tunnel under the city (Elon Musk, Las Vegas USA), for Europe, a high-speed railway. This is a geographical view.

There is also a division of innovations according to the area to which they relate:

  • Product innovation (example: engine with a new cam)
  • Process innovation (example: production management for an engine with a new cam)
  • Technological innovation (robot that assembles a cam in an engine, using electromagnetic waves to locate and fit it)

So the word innovation can mean something different to everyone. But let's avoid misusing the word innovation for simple changes. Can a colour change be an innovation? Yes and no. Not if it's just aesthetics. Yes, if it turns out that the colour is precise, because it absorbs and distributes heat by heating the device, and thus the lubrication does not need to be heated. So what is the most important criterion for innovation - its profitability - for the company, for the customer. If an innovation results in real savings or makes customers want to use it, then it is a real innovation. So the empty word innovation is where it only serves as a description. Only an innovation that the company wants to implement, use, sell, and the customer wants to buy is one that brings value. This is what we should call innovation. Is it possible to generate such an innovation artificially? Yes, in 80% of cases (companies). However, it requires knowledge of the company's potential, the people working in it and the system in which they work. Then an experienced specialist should be able to indicate in which aspects a company can produce a real innovation that will give a business advantage. Implementation of innovations will probably require the involvement of the scientific world, but a good specialist should also take care of this.

We do not create descriptions of innovations that we hide in a drawer. What are they for? Isn't it better to create innovations that bring benefits!