Innovation is often used when discussing software applications. There are many applications that support or somehow play a role in innovation and yet there are sometimes puzzled looks and misunderstandings when the term innovation is used. One person’s view of innovation can be very different than another’s. There is a range of innovation.

Innovation is a lifecycle, with a front end, back end, and a great deal in between. It is more of a network than a timeline with events that happen at certain points trigger events at other points. For example, a sudden shift in the technical feasibility of using a certain technology for a forthcoming project might trigger a requirement to conduct a new idea campaign. This means that innovation initiatives must involve a connected collection of people, systems, processes, and events interacting dynamically.

Most people when asked about innovation as related to new products will say it “begins” with an idea. It actually begins before that. It begins with the corporate product and market strategies. The entire process of trying to define product or market strategies, objectives and initiatives sets the stage for innovation. Further, best practice innovation should allow for the opportunity to change those strategies, objectives and initiatives, thus enabling continuous innovation.

Now consider ideation. This is often referred to as the front end of innovation, suggesting innovation is a timeline and ideation occurs early. The advantage of the label “front end” is that it indicates that ideation is a subset of innovation. It also connotes the beginning of something, which is in fact what many ideas are.  In reality, the front end of innovation is a trademark of the Institute for International Research who has defined it as “arranging and conducting business conferences, workshops and seminars in the field of new product development”1. In actual practice the term is used to represent something broader.

Which brings us to the broader question of the range of innovation. Innovation is most commonly associated with new products, but is equally relevant for new processes, new business or markets, new strategies and new organizational structures, whether those entities are related to actual products or not. We often hear of innovation in the supply chain or innovation in manufacturing or development processes. One can even consider innovation in innovation!

Similarly, innovation continues long after a product is launched. Products and markets are continually assessed for their value or the potential for further innovation.

The world of innovation for an ideation company has walls that are closer in than the world of innovation for an innovation lifecycle company. Both sets of walls are valid. It is important to understand what the respective worlds of innovation are when discussing innovation.

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