- Date: 15th century
Innovation is a change in the thought process for doing something, or the useful application of new inventions or discoveries. It may refer to an incremental emergent or radical and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations. Following Schumpeter (1934), contributors to the scholarly literature on innovation typically distinguish between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully in practice. In many fields, such as the arts, economics and government policy, something new must be substantially different to be innovative. In economics the change must increase value, customer value, or producer value. The goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better. Innovation leading to increased productivity is the fundamental source of increasing wealth in an economy.
Innovation is an important topic in the study of economics, business, entrepreneurship, design, technology, sociology, and engineering. Colloquially, the word "innovation" is often synonymous with the output of the process. However, economists tend to focus on the process itself, from the origination of an idea to its transformation into something useful, to its implementation; and on the system within which the process of innovation unfolds. Since innovation is also considered a major driver of the economy, especially when it leads to new product categories or increasing productivity, the factors that lead to innovation are also considered to be critical to policy makers. In particular, followers of innovation economics stress using public policy to spur innovation and growth.
In the organizational context, innovation may be linked to performance and growth through improvements in efficiency, productivity, quality, competitive positioning, market share, etc. All organizations can innovate, including for example hospitals, universities, and local governments.
While innovation typically adds value, innovation may also have a negative or destructive effect as new developments clear away or change old organizational forms and practices. Organizations that do not innovate effectively may be destroyed by those that do. Hence innovation typically involves risk. A key challenge in innovation is maintaining a balance between process and product innovations where process innovations tend to involve a business model which may develop shareholder satisfaction through improved efficiencies while product innovations develop customer support however at the risk of costly R&D that can erode shareholder return. Innovation can be described as the result of some amount of time and effort into researching an idea, plus some larger amount of time and effort into developing this idea, plus some very large amount of time and effort into commercializing this idea into a market place with customers.
Innovation has been studied in a variety of contexts, including in relation to technology, commerce, social systems, economic development, and policy construction. There are, therefore, naturally a wide range of approaches to conceptualizing innovation in the scholarly literature.