Do you really know what innovation is?

Many organisations strive for it but one expert says a surprising number of leaders struggle to define innovation

Do you really know what innovation is?

Innovation may be one of the most commonly used HR buzzwords but do you really know what it means? According to one industry figure, a surprising number of leaders struggle to define innovation when they’re asked to elaborate.

“We come across that all the time, particularly with the executive teams that have innovation as a strategic priority or have sent down a message to staff to say they must innovate,” says Amantha Imber, an innovation psychologist and CEO of Inventium.

“Funnily enough, when I or other members of my team work with these senior leaders, they often really struggle to define what innovation is.”

While innovation will mean different things to different organisations, Imber says Inventium has devised an all-encompassing definition that can be applied across the board.

“We define innovation as change that adds value,” she tells HRD. “It’s an inclusive definition so anyone is capable of making a change as opposed to innovation being this exclusive thing that is just in the realm of those in technology or marketing or R&D, for example.

Imber also says it’s important that individuals and organisations understand that any change must add value if it’s to be considered an innovation.

“Innovation isn’t just about change for change’s sake,” she says. “The change must add value, whether that’s financial or otherwise.”

Once leaders understand innovation, Imber says it’s just as important that they clearly communicate this to the rest of the workforce too – many of who will be in the dark about how to truly innovate.


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