Is Every Innovation a Win?

Is Every Innovation a Win?

By Jessica Day

In an article published by Scott Berkun in 2008, he begged his readers to “Stop Saying Innovation”. Berkun explains that innovation has been used to describe far too many things like prototypes, solutions, and designs. They’re not “innovations”. He argues that calling something “innovation” unnecessarily raises the stakes and asks you to prove something that you might not be able to live up to.

And this was way back in 2008… if anything, the usage of the word “innovation” has only become more unchecked.

The Definition Of Innovation

According to Berkun, the best (and most broadly applicable) definition of innovation is a “significant positive change”. Innovation, in this way, can most clearly be defined by a result. It asks you to describe the change created and demonstrate how much of a change was made.

Sparking an Innovation or a Win?

One of IdeaScale’s customers that understands this is the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) that runs an innovation program through their IT department. When Dr. Curtis A. Carver Jr. joined UAB as their CIO in 2015, he shared a vision of creating a world-class IT organization that effectively balances cost efficiency, agility, and (that pesky word)… innovation.

But in order to deliver that promise, he launched SPARK: a crowdsourcing challenge that reached out to the campus community with the goal of finding 100 meaningful ways to improve the lives of their students, staff, faculty, and researchers. Dr. Carver referred to these projects as “wins” instead of innovations.

But when Dr. Carver described the changes that emerged as solutions from the program, he talked about the measurable outcomes that impacted the lives of people on campus: email storage went from a gigabyte-limited solution to unlimited. The team found a way to improve the performance of research computers by a factor of ten. They also reported an exponential increase in bandwidth and much more.

Set Your Own Term

But in the end, is it better to call such things improvements or innovations? UAB made an excellent choice to call them “wins”. Thus, if you are going to use the “I word”, it’s usually best to be able to measure your impact and clearly articulate its value before doing so. Now, how does and how will your company use the word “innovation?”

To learn more about the University of Alabama innovation story, download the case study.

Here are a number of inventions that may or may not be innovations, but surely are wins!

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