What does it mean to be innovative?

disruptiveDisruption is an English word, but it is now commonly used in Italian too. The Italian dictionary translates is as interruption or chaos. But the original meaning of this word in terms of business and innovation is usually not a negative one. The debate is still wide open, though.

In a recent article published on the Harvard Business Review, the author Greg Satell retorts to the journalist Jill Lepore, who maintains that disruptive innovation is a strategy for an age seized by terror and refers to startups as “a pack of ravenous hyenas” intent on blowing things up.

The point is to understand the real meaning of innovation. Almost everyone agrees on the fact that innovation should be a mechanism that pushes creativity, individual or collective, to produce something – whether goods or services – for the better. In the book that I had the honour to translate into Italian, Jugaad Innovation, the cases mentioned were examples of efficient, cheap and spontaneous innovation. These are crucial parameters to understand the deep essence of innovation. Is it still innovation if it is super structured, too expensive and basically unnecessary?

Innovation, then, does not mean to cancel the past to restore something from scratch. Satell gives an important example applied to physics, in which he shows that old theories can still be useful if partnered with more modern ones. Disruptive and innovative spirit should be a bit jugaad too: simple, effective and able to create value for the most people.

This is also what Ray Wang, author of Disrupting digital business, thinks. Wang states that we should redefine the ideas of innovation and digital world, too often associated with sparking technological devices. Wang thinks that digital business should be above all transformation in management, involving employees and customers in a virtuous cycle to create value, making each of them responsible for their part of transformation, to achieve digital scale.

Co-innovating, co-creating and collaborating.

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