‘Innovation’ is a powerful sounding word! But what exactly is innovation? and why is innovation important? Is it an idea, a design, an invention, a creation, or simply a small change? It could be any of them or all of them combined! The only difference is that in innovation, we ‘implement’ what’s new or ingenious! An innovation may be original or something that builds up on what already exists.
Is it not enough to simply follow the routine norms all the time? Innovation is needed because it is the core and essence for any development to happen. What seems stable all the time is in fact, the result of a constant change or development. Innovation is ‘dynamic’, and it is interesting that a dynamic ‘change’ actually leads to ‘stability’! Note how when a disc with seven colours is rotated with a high speed, it leads to a stable white display on the disc!
Let’s learn more on the importance of innovation by beginning with a systematic definition.
Innovation is an idea that is transformed into reality. It is the creation or development of a new product, process, or service to improve upon the efficiency. The word ‘innovation’ comes from the Latin word ‘novus’ meaning ‘new’.
Adopting innovation can make a difference and here’s presenting the two most important features of innovation through the story of ‘the wheel’:
Learning Through the Story of the Wheel!
Innovation is not always rocket science. It could be a very simple or a very basic concept which when applied, could make a sea change! Although the invention may be old, the idea of its application may be revolutionary!
Take for example the story of the ‘wheel’. The wheel is one of the most important inventions for mankind. Since the time of its invention, the wheel underwent transformation by slight changes in its application:
- It is surprising to note that the first use of a wheel was in the potter’s wheel! The rotary motion was used to squeeze, lift, and shape lumps of clay into pots, as the wheel turned.
- When it was eventually observed how ‘rolling’ involves lesser effort as compared to ‘dragging’, due to reduced friction, the concept of the wheel came to be used in transport!
So, we may infer that innovation may be a concept that is simple but creative at the same time.
Why is Innovation Important?
Innovation is important as it can improve efficiency by creating an edge over the traditional methods or type of products used routinely by either or all of the following:
- Reducing the user-effort involved
- Making the product/process/service cost-effective
- Increasing the shelf-life of a product
- Saving time
- Saving space for storage of a product
- Increasing productivity and reducing environmental impact
Innovation is not only important for organisations in their growth. Innovation is important for individuals also in career growth. As rightly stated by Steve Jobs:
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower – Steve JobsTweet
Resistance to Innovation
If there is no innovation, it gradually leads to stasis. Yet, we often see a resistance to innovation in so many work places. What could be the reason for this? Why is innovation still a rare trend?
- Lack of genuine ideas.
- No support for these ideas in the company by the leader due to fear of failure.
- The innovative product may have more disadvantages to it and lesser feasibility for the company to handle.
- No support for the innovative products by customers.
How to Encourage the Trend of Innovation?
Innovation has to be an integral part of any company to avoid stagnation and also to encourage competitive spirit. Companies need to come out of the obsession of customer acceptance and take a bold stand on their new launch. Steve Jobs of Apple Computers, was once quoted as saying;
“Am I really going to ask customers if they want an iPad?”, which means a company has to make new changes for the customer and not wait for the customers to pass approval!
In order to encourage the trend of innovative thinking, the leader needs to assign a portion of the budget for the following:
- Giving incentives to employees who can think outside of the box and bring forth new-age ideas.
- Being prepared to invest in implementing the idea and transform it into the actual product.
- Advertising the new product to make it well-known for its novel features.
- Bear the cost of its promotion until it gains momentum in the market
- Ready to bear the costs for loss in case the product still fails
There is no innovation and creativity without a failure. Period – Brene BrownTweet
This may seem like a risk, but will be worth it on a long run, because innovation leads to productive failure. Taking no-risk at all is sure to lead to a down-trend and eventual sluggishness in growth. On the other hand, if an innovative idea works well, it helps the company enjoy tremendous success and the much-required growth!
Importance of Innovative Culture in Workplaces
Innovative practices can also create a culture of learning and personal development along with the success for any company. Jeff Bezos, of Amazon fame has stated that the only way out of a tight box is to invent your way out! Innovation creates:
- Personal Development
- Competitive advantage
- Steady growth
How Different Types of Innovation can Help Achieve Growth
Most companies follow one or the other form of innovation at some point of time. It is only a matter of what type they choose to implement.
This type is the most widespread and the safest to experiment with. It is based on the concept on adding new features to an existing product. We see this kind of innovation being applied in digital gadgets, home appliances and software applications.
This type involves bringing in an altogether new technology in a product than what currently exists in the market. It involves a certain amount of risk till it gains acceptance in the market. A classic example can be of touch-screen mobile phones.
This type of innovation is common and makes use of an existing technology in launching a new product or process. The best example is of use of the internet in various processes: Online shopping, Internet banking, virtual meeting platforms, electronic libraries, online tutoring, etc.
Radical innovation is what we all know as real innovation. It involves creating a completely new and revolutionary concept like never before. It requires core ideas and good investment. Examples for these are the birth of airplanes, and the internet technology.
Case studies that Witness the Potential of Innovation
Innovation has touched everywhere right from our homes to outer space. The list would be endless. Let us consider a few areas as examples to learn why and how innovation has been essential in transforming our standard of living. Here’s presenting three case studies that throw more light.
Case study 1: Farming
With the hugely growing population of the world, it goes without saying how important it is to grow more food. The traditional methods may not always suffice to meet the growing demand. Challenges like reduced availability of land, tricky climate changes, or damaging locust attacks can only make it worse.
HOW the Transformation?
So, what is the one solution for the many problems? The answer is innovation! Here is a small list of how innovation has bettered the farming trend:
- The idea of testing soil for nutrients and improving it with nutrient supplements prior to cultivation improves the crop yield even in smaller lands.
- Genetic engineering, has made disease-resistant plant varieties available, that reduce wastage of yield as well as reduce the time spent on managing diseases.
- Farming machinery is no longer only about tractors. Sprinklers and slurry tanks now help with fertilizing and spraying of pesticides. From sophisticated irrigation techniques to harvesting machines, we have them all. These machineries help farmers handle most work without assistance and reduce time on fields.
- Useful mobile applications that give prior warnings about devastating migratory pests to farmers have helped them be prepared and reduce the damages.
- Attempts to provide better market access to small-scale farmers have turned them into entrepreneurs!
Case study 2: Home Appliances
Home appliances are probably the least talked about, but the field which has seen maximum innovation. Imagine life without them! Having to manually do jobs like washing or grinding, with no refrigerators or heating appliances! Innovation has descended the kitchen and utility like straight from a magic wand!
HOW the Transformation?
Home appliances have reduced the work load, cost, and time spent on them, leaving ample time for home-makers and the working alike for productive activity like work-outs, recreation, and hobbies! Here is a small glance as to how:
- Washing machines and dishwashers are not just one-time breakthroughs, but appliances that keep getting upgraded with every slight change, translating into pure convenience! Having a drier is a blessing in monsoon!
- Innovation is looking at new smart refrigerators that are not just cool storage units. They now aim to help you keep track of what you have stored and remind you of their expiry dates via your smartphones!
- Cooking and heating have never been so easy as we see it today. We slowly have induction stoves and microwave ovens sharing the burden off gas stoves. Quick and cost effective, they have safety feature as their top achievements. You can rely on them even when children use them when you are not around.
Case study 3: Health Care
With a fully blown population across the globe, and a growing population of the elderly, health-care would have suffered major set-backs, if not for innovation. Today health-care is seen in new light. Conventional methods in consultation, vaccination, treatment, or also surgeries are being fast replaced by modern techniques much to the relief of people.
HOW the Transformation?
Transformation is not just seen in equipment and digital application, but also in the way doctors approach treatment. For example, the recent witness of successful ongoing vaccination drive for the coronavirus pandemic is one such transformation. Here are a few others:
- Doctors have evolved from being mere pill prescribers to approaching treatment through alternative and effective strategies that include intermittent fasting, exercise, yoga, music, or meditation.
- Internet power is yet again seen being harnessed in online tele-consultations of doctors with patients. This has not just decreased travel time and cost, but has also made health-care reach remote localities.
- Faster and less invasive surgery techniques have made it possible for people to get back sooner to work than before by reducing recovery time.
- Advanced screening and diagnosis have made serious illnesses such as cancers to be detected much before they become incurable. Hence there are higher success rates following treatment of diseases at lesser costs.
- Infant mortality has been greatly reduced following birth due to high-end emergency treatment and high-quality equipment.
An eagle’s eye view reveals how industries, business and banking sectors, space and technology, you name it; and everything seems to be resting majorly on the innovations in software development!
The internet remains a powerful tool from which innovative applications continue to flow. Artificial intelligence is going to change the face of earth in the coming years.
However, there still remain so many domains where innovation seems to be moving at snail’s pace. Don’t you think innovation needs much progress in the court of law, or the judiciary, and in the system of education? Plastic and electronic recycling too require more attention.
You need creative thinking skills to kick start the process of innovation. But must remember that:
Creativity is thinking up new things, Innovation is doing new things – Theodore LevittTweet
To sum it all up, innovation is an inevitable process. A seed is small yet grows into a tall tree to provide shade, fruits, and many resources for a long time. Likewise, innovative ideas need to be nurtured to provide long-lasting betterment in people’s lives.
Recommended books on Innovation
Article Credit: Why is innovation important
This article is contributed by Ms Preeti Tambraparni, post graduate in microbiology with a certification in clinical research. Her expertise are writing personal blog in life science related topics and health blog.
More articles from Ms. Preeti Tambraparni:
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