What’s Innovation

Innovation is more like a book than a smartphone.

We have faced many innovative people, from entrepreneurs who claim to improve businesses by manipulating them to innovative children who, without formal education, propose incredible ideas that leave one or more adults speechless. But is that innovation?

Here’s our point of view, with just a little, only a little, applied knowledge. We define innovation not only as good ideas or plans that generate new proposals, but these must be materialized and applied with tangible, measurable, and high-quality results. Innovation is a transversal modifying action, changing many processes simultaneously, allowing us to think and rethink objects, processes, or activities through seemingly incompatible disciplines, for example, finding how to improve a city park through electronics or how to develop a shoe through sociology. Does that sound familiar?

Innovation cannot exist without knowledge. To produce a smartwatch, we had to pass through an hourglass. And it’s not the sand but what it taught us.

When visualized in this manner, innovation moves away from the description of a creative individual with a talent for “seeing the future”. It becomes closer to a scientific mindset that uses theory and experience to achieve intentional results. Here are what, to me, are essential to understand:

Technically speaking, not theoretically, to innovate is an action that always needs to be planned. It doesn’t happen by magic, and definitely not without knowledge. It’s also necessary to define the focus of this action -and this is what the theory says-:

Innovation can be applied to:

  • The structure or core of the object, product, service, moment, experience, and anything else we can think of.
  • The processes
  • Context, yes! Of course, we can innovate the context or “environment” where the previous ones are.
  • Technology, which unfortunately has become a product.
  • Quality, which only some aim for.
  • Usability, or how people embrace something.
  • Sustainability and supportability.

Innovation, added to the focus, must define the discipline with which it will operate; this means it has to tell us in advance what kind of work will be used to reexamine the previous objectives and effectively intervene in the system to achieve changes with verifiable improvements.

People cannot say they are innovative no matter how much they consume innovative products.

For example, someone who knows about innovation will say, “Home automation will change how we interact with our homes,” and not simply, “I will automate my blinds to make my life easier”. We haven’t said that the first argument is correct and the second is wrong; on the contrary, both are valid because the only difference between them is that the first thinks about innovation, and the second consumes it.

Innovation refers to the final objective of its strategic use, not a metaphysical property:

  • Innovation as new: unprecedented ideas (intuition-inventions)
  • Innovation as change: ideas to modify the present (thinking)
  • Innovation as knowledge: building advantages that support future growth (knowledge)

Finally, innovation, as we understand it, can use any discipline to change the establishment, and, as the dictionary says, “in-novus-tio” introduces novelty about things that materialize and change our vision over those assumptions.

Innovation is expensive and pays its weight in gold, but the truth is that only some people are prepared.

As for whether there are human beings of an innovative nature, we don’t believe it because it requires, as we see, knowledge and research (and lots of experiences). Can they prepare themselves? Yes! 

As for whether we can innovate constantly, large companies design and fund their innovation method for a couple of decades ahead, and entrepreneurs who dream of including innovation in their business today can. 

However, whenever we have the fortune to advise them, we try to keep them on the ground in the most diplomatic way possible, explaining to them that innovating is a long-term investment; they also need to know as much as they can by studying and philosophizing about the subject to the point of saturation, and that this process does not happen overnight. This is not to upset them but with the sole purpose that they understand the value of study as an asset and a much higher return as the prize for patience.