Writing goals and plans down on paper and defining them, precisely, help us productively confront what's in our minds and hearts. Chiseled words can help bring clarity and guidance.  For that reason, we have to find a working definition for innovation if we want to deploy it as a key strategy to propel our business growth and competitive differentiation. Grapple with the word, we must.

Here's a review of previously crafted definitions for innovation by top business thinkers:
“Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship..the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.” Peter Drucker
“Change that creates a new dimension of performance.” – Peter Drucker
“Creating something before people know they need it.” – Guy Kawasaki
“Innovation transforms useful seeds of invention into solutions valued above every existing alternative.” – Braden Kelley
“The successful implementation of creative ideas within an organization.” – Teresa Amabile
Insights from the Twitterverse in < 140 characters: 
@wwcasey Innovation is the combination of creativity (the idea), design (making it real), and implementation (making it available).
@innovatebig Innovation is identification of and solution to a real problem that shifts and extends any current understanding of the problem
@mikebrown  Innovation = A fundamental, valuable improvement relative to the status quo
@JeffreyJDavis Innovation: Combining common elements in uncommon ways to create unique value.
@pennyhaynes Innovation: Creating a method or product that improves a traditional idea OR efficiently meets a need heretofore unaddressed

In my opinion, a working definition of innovation should be focused enough to be valuable but, also incorporate the different aspects or parts of the process to truly define what successful innovation looks like. Two posts in the Institutes' Innovation Library explore this challenge of definition and offer us two very good ways to understand and begin working with innovation. Reading these articles can help get you in the mindset necessary to guide your innovation efforts.

Hutch Carpenter, VP of Product at Spigit (now with HYPE Innovation), walks us through his thinking about innovation in his post Innovation Confusion and offers the following definition:

Innovation: "A change in a product offering, service, business model or operations which meaningfully improves the experience of a large number of stakeholders"

This description clearly outlines the various elements needed in innovation: a different way of doing things (change) + a wide view of what can be altered (products, services, business model or operations) + raising the bar beyond merely repackaging (meaningfully improves the experience) + generates impact and demand (large number of stakeholders).

Tim Kastelle, a lecturer of Innovation Management in the University of Queensland Business School, explores the question of What is Innovation?  succinctly defining

Innovation: "executing new ideas to create value".

I particularly like Tim's blog post as he clearly states and visually presents in his article how you need these different components working together, three sub-processes, of value creation, manufacturing new ideas, and organized execution to truly arrive at an innovation. This definition clearly imbeds a number of steps to take on the road to true innovation. By breaking these steps down, we can organize and engineer a process to guide us forward.

We will explore in upcoming posts, in detail, each of the steps necessary for successful innovation creation and learn how to maximize our efforts at each point.

The Institute for Innovation Development is an educational and business development catalyst for growth-oriented financial services firms. We position our members with the necessary ongoing innovation resources and coaching to drive and facilitate their growth, differentiation and unique community engagement strategies. The Institute launched with the support and foresight of our Founding Sponsor partners – Innovation Equity Partners, Pershing, Ultimus Fund Solutions, Fidelity, Meridian IQ/Advice IQ and Charter Financial Publishing (FA and Private Wealth magazines). Together, we help make innovation happen. For more information or to join the Institute, click here.