Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a new idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.
The word innovation derives from the Latin word innovatus, which is the noun form of innovare "to renew or change," stemming from in—"into" + novus—"new". Diffusion of innovation research was first started in 1903 by seminal researcher Gabriel Tarde, who first plotted the S-shaped diffusion curve. Tarde (1903) defined the innovation-decision process as a series of steps that includes:
Forming an attitude
A decision to adopt or reject
Implementation and use
Confirmation of the decision
Ever since the invention of innovation the number of definitions of innovation seems to grow even faster than the number of researchers and practitioners in innovation. What is more, the term innovation seems to refer to fundamentally different matters sometimes, which is the case if one colleague calls a new product an innovation while the other two consider an innovation either the process that leads to the new product or the products market diffusion.
Starting with the above mentioned minimal consensus on the elective affinity of the concept of innovation and the concept of the new, we will indeed soon find that new refers not only to time, but also to the object dimension (new compared to what?) and the social dimension (new for whom?):
Innovation as novelty
If we are interested in the object dimension of innovation, then we focus on the added values of certain products, processes or services. Innovation is always expressed by better technological solution accepted by society. Novelty is just a consequence of innovations' practical implementation. Innovation is always novel. But the key parameter of innovation is an added value for the user.
Innovation as change
When examining the time dimension of innovation, we are no longer interested in new objects new but rather in new processes (that might also lead to new objects). In this context, innovation means refers to transformations, to diffusions and ultimately to change.
Innovation as advantage
In its social dimension, innovation refers to the creation of new forms of advantage in terms of innovative address management (e.g. the use of preferable new or attractive signs in order to stand out from the crowd) or of the realization of advances.
Creativity has been studied using many different approaches.
Due to its widespread effect, innovation is an important topic in the study of economics, business, entrepreneurship, design, technology, sociology, and engineering. In society, innovation aids in comfort, convenience, and efficiency in everyday life. For instance, the benchmarks in railroad equipment and infrastructure added to greater safety, maintenance, speed, and weight capacity for passenger services. These innovations included wood to steel cars, iron to steel rails, stove-heated to steam-heated cars, gas lighting to electric lighting, diesel-powered to electric-diesel locomotives. By mid-20th century, trains were making longer, more comfortable, and faster trips at lower costs for passengers. Other areas that add to everyday quality of life include: the innovations to the light bulb from incandescent to compact fluorescent and LEDs which offer longer-lasting, less energy-intensive, brighter technology; adoption of modems to cellular phones, paving the way to smartphones which meets anyone’s internet needs at any time or place; cathode-ray tube to flat-screen LCD televisions and others.
Business and economics
In business and economics, innovation is the catalyst to growth. With rapid advancements in transportation and communications over the past few decades, the old world concepts of factor endowments and comparative advantage which focused on an area’s unique inputs are outmoded for today’s global economy. Economist Joseph Schumpeter, who contributed greatly to the study of innovation, argued that industries must incessantly revolutionize the economic structure from within, that is innovate with better or more effective processes and products, such as the shift from the craft shop to factory. He famously asserted that “creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.” In addition, entrepreneurs continuously look for better ways to satisfy their consumer base with improved quality, durability, service, and price which come to fruition in innovation with advanced technologies and organizational strategies.
One prime example is the explosive boom of Silicon startups out of the Stanford Industrial Park. In 1957, dissatisfied employees of Shockley Semiconductor, the company of Nobel laureate and co-inventor of the transistor William Shockley, left to form an independent firm, Fairchild Semiconductor. After several years, Fairchild developed into a formidable presence in the sector. Eventually, these founders left to start their own companies based on their own, unique, latest ideas, and then leading employees started their own firms. Over the next 20 years, this snowball process launched the momentous startup company explosion of information technology firms. Essentially, Silicon Valley began as 65 new enterprises born out of Shockley’s eight former employees.
In the organizational context, innovation may be linked to positive changes in efficiency, productivity, quality, competitiveness, market share, and others. All organizations can innovate, including for example hospitals, universities, and local governments. For instance, former Mayor Martin O’Malley pushed the City of Baltimore to use CitiStat, a performance-measurement data and management system that allows city officials to maintain statistics on crime trends to condition of potholes. This system aids in better evaluation of policies and procedures with accountability and efficiency in terms of time and money. In its first year, CitiStat saved the city $13.2 million. Even mass transit systems have innovated with hybrid bus fleets to real-time tracking at bus stands. In addition, the growing use of mobile data terminals in vehicles that serves as communication hubs between vehicles and control center automatically send data on location, passenger counts, engine performance, mileage and other information. This tool helps to deliver and manage transportation systems.
Still other innovative strategies include hospitals digitizing medical information in electronic medical records; HUD’s HOPE VI initiatives to eradicate city’s severely distressed public housing to revitalized, mixed income environments; the Harlem Children’s Zone that uses a community-based approach to educate local area children; and EPA’s brownfield grants that aids in turning over brownfields for environmental protection, green spaces, community and commercial development.