Is anything ever completely new or original? I recently listened to a podcast from the TED Radio Hour on this topic and it encouraged me to think deeply about this idea of originality, newness and innovation.
Let’s look at two popular examples: the iPhone and lean manufacturing.
Was the iPhone new or original? Strong arguments can be made for both yes and no. This was the first device that wrapped an iPod, a mobile phone, and an internet communication device into one handheld, touch-enabled technology. It started a revolution in the way we interact with each other and information. Was the integration of all of these devices new? Of course! But each of the individual technologies was not. The iPod, the mobile phone, and an internet communicator were all existing technologies common in the marketplace.
Moving to an industry context, lean manufacturing is a process developed from a long history of waste avoidance and waste management. Like many innovative processes, existing theories and processes were improved and modified to advance this field. But are these advancements (or the “new” process that results) original?
What Does “Innovation” Really Mean for Companies?
What do you consider innovative? Can you identify what “helped” develop it? Can you think of sources of inspiration or ways in which the creators blatantly copied others? I bet you can. Originality doesn’t necessarily mean being the first to scale the highest peak or navigate the impasse. Look around you for inspiration. Are there ideas from other contexts that would apply well to your business? More importantly, are you ensuring that you are providing value?
Originality without value is merely different. Originality with value (no matter how you get there) is innovative. As we think about innovation within our existing companies, innovation doesn’t have to be completely new or original, but adding value is imperative.