Innovation Defined: Change, Vectored Change, Improvement and Innovation

We live in a world of constant change. A world where it sometimes seems as if, like the White Queen, you must run constantly in order to stay in the same place.

All around us people are talking about change management as if it was a discipline that every entrepreneur and senior manager should be a master of. But of course, as you chase the information back it becomes obvious that you can’t really manage change.

I’ve identified four basic types of change.

Change happens all around us. Sometimes we’re pushed one way and sometimes we’re pushed another. Often changes cancel each other or force us to act at cross-purposes. Change is outside of our control and the best that we can do is react.

But what happens when change is focused? When it is directed to achieve a particular end. That’s what we call vectored change. Vectored change occurs because we actively seek it. We actively shape it and direct its course. It has a purpose and a reason for being. Vectored change is what happens when we manage our environment.

The concept of vectored change is important to the concept of improvement and innovation. Normally one of those concepts is at the base of vectored change.

Improvement is the modification of what is already in place. In quality terms, it is referred to as an increase in efficiency. Its source is almost always internal although the force demanding it may come from an external change. It is characterized by a desire to remain as one is and by an internal focus. Think minor adjustment.

Innovation on the other hand, is characterized by an open mind and input of external ideas. In fact, one marketing guru has stated that innovation can only come from looking outside one’s environment and company. While that is a simplification of the options, it really isn’t that far from the practical realities of innovation. Innovation doesn’t always require throwing out what exists currently but it does always involve something new. Think rules change and competition scrambling to catch up.

Peter Drucker said that, “Business has only two functions — Marketing and Innovation.”

He also said, “INNOVATION is the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service. It is capable of being presented as a discipline, capable of being learned, capable of being practiced. Entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation, the changes and their symptoms that indicate opportunities for successful innovation. And they need to know and to apply the principles of successful innovation.”

Theodore Levitt said, “CREATIVITY is thinking up new things. INNOVATION is doing new things.”

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