What is Innovation?

What is Innovation?


What is Innovation?

Most people understand “innovation” as a product, service or idea that has created major change in human behavior. Think about things that have turned the world upside down like: internet, Google, Apple, or electricity, wheel, telephone, frozen food and Darwin´s theories. There is no question whether these were innovations and they truly did turn the world upside down.

How did these guys find the vast amount of creative urge and come up with such great ideas? Actually they did not come up with the idea or innovation as we see it now. The innovation, as we see it, is only the tip of the iceberg. The final outcome of a huge amount of work. The, shall I say, lucky outcome of countless mistakes. The glory after huge amounts of trial and error. So the magic moment when innovation happens does not exist? Oh yes it does, but to be innovative requires certain seeds and right attitude to flourish.

The seeds of innovation.

Hard work in a specific direction.

You should have an idea. It does not really matter when and where you start as long as you do start. You work determined into a specific direction, working on possible solutions. You must experiment, make mistakes, learn by doing, be open for any ideas. When you think you do not have any good ideas, try some extremely bad ideas. Maybe some of them turn out to be absolutely brilliant ideas.

Ability to change the direction.

The original great idea of yours maybe good but along the process you might come up with even better ideas. It can also be that the new ideas, possibly a part of your project, would be great stand alone innovations. You must be able to pull the break and change the direction when such an opportunity emerges. Here is a great example changing direction: In 2002 a small group of programmers came out with an idea to develop an online game called “Game Neverending”. The idea was to build something very similar to the very popular current game “World of Warcraft”. One of the key ideas in the game was to enable the players to communicate with each other extremely easily by talking, instant messaging and photo sharing. After a few weeks the developers noticed that the game itself was not a huge success but the side effect was that people were actively sharing photos with each other. This is were the magic moment of innovation happened. The team realized that instead of developing the game further they should actually better concentrate on the photo sharing. Exactly that was done, a 180 degrees change in direction. Today we know this photo sharing product with the name “Flickr”.


Personal interests are often behind great innovations. Why? Personal interests are seldom money driven and there is also no rulebook to follow. People follow their inclinations just for the sake of learning something new, to pass time or simply just to have fun. Sometimes, the practical purpose or use just pops up. If you manage to convince the right people about the usefulness of you great idea you have an innovation in you hand.


Often an innovation comes out of a process where all of the above “seeds” (and other seeds) are mixed. However, no matter how much effort or hard work is put into the project, innovation cannot exist without open mind, acceptance, diversity of opinions and seeing mistakes as opportunities to learn.


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