Misunderstanding Innovation

Scott Francis
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Linkedin processHorace Dediu’s post: “Innoveracy: Misunderstanding Innovation” – is a classic example of why I love reading his blog.  He’s managed to perfectly capture why people fail to understand innovation and therefore fail to understand companies like Apple.

It starts with “good definitions”:

  • “Innoveracy” – if Illiteracy is the inability to read and right, and Innumeracy is the inability to do math and numbers, then “innoveracy” is the inability to understand the concept of innovation.
  • Novelties: “the choice of Gold as a color for the iPhone, the naming of a version of Android as ‘Kit Kat'”
  • Creations: “the fall collection of a fashion designer; a new movie; a blog post”
  • Inventions: “Anything described by patent; The secret formula for Coca Cola”
  • Innovations: “The iPhone pricing model; Google revenue model; the Ford production system; Wal-mart’s store design; Amazon’s logistics.

This post more clearly explains the concept of innovation better than any written words I’ve seen before this, and partly by separating hte notion of “invention” from innovation.  An invention isn’t useful in and of itself.  It requires innovation around it to find the utility for the invention.

Take a step back to look at your own company or business.  I look at WPEngine – they’re innovative.  Because they have found ways to make WordPress useful to businesses like BP3. They didn’t invent WordPress, but they sure are good at making it useful.

If you look at BP3, we’re an innovative firm in the sense that we make IBM BPM useful for our customers.  We do this through technology,  organizational, and business model innovations to align our business with our customers.

Horace wraps with this statement:

Understanding that innovation requires passing a market test and that passing that test is immensely rewarding both for the creator and for society at large means that we can focus on how to make it happen. Obsessing over the mere novelties or inventions means we allocate resources which markets won’t reward. Misusing the term and confusing it with activities that don’t create value takes our eye off the causes and moves us away from finding ways of repeatably succeeding.

Recognizing that innoveracy is a problem allows us to address it. Addressing it would mean we could speak a language of value creation that everyone understands.

Couldn’t agree more.

Moreover, it couldn’t come at a better time for the BPM community, as there was a discussion on ebizQ that might reflect some confusion on the subject. The question was whether process can drive innovation.  Two issues:

  1. Innovation and invention happens in the context of a creative process (even at Apple… or perhaps especially at Apple).
  2. Once you have a great invention to get to market, process is all about how you execute around getting that invention to market – and in that moment in time is nearly synonymous with innovation.

With a clearer definition in mind, I’m looking forward to applying that clearer perspective to our approach to BPM.

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