I’ve been asking the question “How do you accelerate innovations?”

The response from a very smart friend was “What do you mean by innovation?”

Innovation is a word that is both fuzzy and thrown around a lot. Not a good combination.

The best definition1 for innovation is from the book Cycles of Innovation and Discovery:

“The creation of new processes, products, or ideas that result in significant improvements in the world.”

New - The new piece is important because there are many things that create improvements in the world and are not new. These things are valuable, just not innovations.

Processes, Products, or Ideas - It’s important to not limit innovations to tools/products. New ways of thinking about the world are arguably even more powerful: see the scientific method. Processes may be some of the most under-appreciated innovations.

Significant improvements in the world - Some definitions leave this out. Yes, it’s fuzzy - what is “significant?” But there are many new things that are clearly not innovations. Like that great idea you had in the shower. Or the onesie floor mop. These things have not created significant improvements in the world. Not to diminish the experience of those five star onesie floor mop reviewers.

1 What makes a definition good? A good definition separates things from not-things accurately, while being as simple as possible.