What Is Innovation and Why You Need an Innovation Strategy

Oct 2021, Sawsan Khuri, based on several months discussing the topic with network colleagues on LinkedIn and tinkering with a definition.

Ask this question to ten people and you’ll get fifteen different answers. Here is an attempt to distill it into a couple of paragraphs, based on responses to a LinkedIn challenge I posted a few months ago and numerous conversations with network colleagues since.

Innovation includes the development of new inventions, or products based on the same invention, that might challenge the status quo. It might help a company branch into new markets, and allow a business to streamline its processes making it more efficient and productive. Innovation has the potential to provide great societal and economic benefit. It is an opportunity to do something better in ways that have never been done before.

The process of innovation is dynamic, unpredictable, and combines creativity with experimentation. The space provided for innovation needs to promote open ended thinking, provide a sense of belonging and allow individuals to thrive. The mindset for innovation must be outcome rather than output oriented, fuelled by a passion for high impact and not just the production of a new thing for people to fad over – done properly, who knows where it might lead?

People who practice innovation rely on those intangible skills that are able to handle uncertainty and failure. That quote by Thomas Edison has suddenly gone viral, “I didn’t fail, I found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It takes a measure of self-belief, resilience, determination, imagination and courage, it needs a person to be open to learnings and possibilities and allow shifts in perspective as the process unfolds. Innovation is where imagination meets ambition and entrepreneurship.

Thus innovation is a lot more than product development and for a business to reap maximum benefit it has to embed it into its fabric, its business culture. This makes innovation a strategy item that touches everything in a business, with a remit from leadership and engagement all through the workforce. Can your business afford not to have one?