Contributed By


Donna DeCarolis

Founding Dean of the Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel University

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What is an Innovation?

July 25, 2016

What exactly constitutes something really innovative in your company?

Defining “Innovation” is similar to defining “pornography” – as Justice Potter Stewart said of the latter – we know it when we see it.

But what exactly constitutes something really innovative in your company?

In large part this depends on the newness of the idea to your business; the newer it is, the more difficult it is to execute.

Innovations, unlike established products, services, processes and business models, suggest a degree of uncertainty and the more radical they are from what already exists, the more uncertain the outcome. Consider two types of uncertainty and related outcomes:

  • The first is market uncertainty: will the customer or buyer actually want and buy the innovation?
  • The second is technological or practical uncertainty: will the innovation perform the way you think it will, be it a service or product innovation?
  • And the more uncertainty involved in implementing the innovative project in your company, the more organizational change is required: changes in your structure, systems, delivery, skill sets, operations and even your culture.

    So, remember, truly radical innovations require careful planning around their implementation.

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