Zoe Aitken8 February 2021

4 things that innovation IS NOT.

In defining what innovation IS NOT, it’s helpful to first understand what innovation IS. As I’m sure many of you know, at Inventium, we define innovation as ‘change that adds value’. This definition probably seems broad, and that’s because it is! The definition is purposefully broad to make sure that it includes all kinds of innovation. Whether that be changes to a product, service, business model, system or process, all of these can be considered innovation, as long as it derives value for the customer or company.

So, now knowing what innovation IS, this brings us to four things that innovation IS NOT, which are common misconceptions:


  1. Innovation IS NOT just about New Product Development (NPD).

We often see organisations use the terms NPD and innovation interchangeably. But NPD is just one type of innovation. For innovation to have the greatest impact on a business and for it to be truly transformational, it must go beyond just NPD. Innovation is a tool and process that can be applied to any aspect of a business that requires creative thinking and problem solving. Whether that be coming up with a new approach for finance reporting, developing new internal meeting protocols or improving manufacturing efficiencies. An innovation-led approach should span across all areas of the business.


  1. Innovation IS NOT just about technology.

While technology-based innovation gets a lot of airtime, technology is not the be all and end all of innovation. A common mistake that we see organisations make, is that they use technology as the start-point for innovation. However, taking a technology-first approach means that they run the risk of getting pulled towards every new, shiny emerging technology, without it ever solving a relevant customer problem. Instead, identifying a compelling customer problem should always be the start-point for innovation. And then you can find the best solution (technology-based or otherwise) to solve that problem.


  1. Innovation IS NOT simply about doing things differently.

The ‘adding value’ part of the definition of innovation is what distinguishes ‘innovation’ from a crazy ‘invention’, or simply change for change’s sake. A novel idea is pointless if it doesn’t deliver meaningful value back to the customer or company. So, for every new idea, you should always be asking yourself ‘What problem is this solving?’ and ‘How is it delivering value?’.


  1. Innovation IS NOT just about coming up with a cool idea.

Contrary to popular belief, innovation doesn’t start with an idea; it starts with a customer problem. Any best-practice innovation process always starts with identifying the most important customer problems to solve. This helps to anchor the team’s creativity around something of value and that the customer actually wants. So, instead of asking the team to submit all of their cool innovation ideas, make sure that you first identify what’s most important to your customers. And then ask the team to solve for that.

When thinking about innovation, keep the definition of ‘change that adds value’ top of mind. This will ensure that you consider all sorts of innovation opportunities, tech-based or otherwise. And most importantly, it will ensure that your ideas are adding value back to the customer. Otherwise, it’s just pointless change. And quite frankly, who has time for that?