New, Surprising, Radically Useful

What is innovation? — Innovation entails both the production and implementation of novel and useful ideas.

As “novel” is often just a fancy synomyn for “new”, it is necessary to clarify that for something to be innovative it needs to offer new functionality, but it also has to be surprising. If your customers are asking for it, you aren’t being innovative when you give them what they want; you are just being responsive. That’s a good thing, but it’s not innovative.

Moreover, as “useful” is a rather underwhelming adjective to describe an innovation hottie, it is better to say that it must be radically useful.

Innovation also applies to products with small and incremental improvements, because they can be new, surprising, and putting them all together they can also be radically useful.

This more inclusive definition —innovation isn’t just about the really new, really big things— matters because it affords everyone the opportunity to innovate, rather than keeping it the exclusive realm of those few people in that off-campus building whose job it is to innovate. This inclusive spirit gives most everyone the chance to come up with those really new, really big things.

Summing-up: For something to be innovative, it needs to be new, surprising, and radically useful.

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