What is Innovation Development?

Innovation Development is a process that delivers something new to potential users.  This is intentionally broad, so let’s break it down.

What is something new?  Traditionally, this process is known as New Product Development or NPD.  The emphasis has been on new products but most people in the field consider services to also be “products”.  Look at the financial services industry.  It is now common for financial firms to market their services as “products” (have you ever received your financial return as a physical good?).  I see products or services as equally innovative.  I also see innovations as new business models, the classic entrepreneurial activity, or new non-profit services.  I like to refer to these as enterprises, in the positive sense of the word as enterprising activities, but not exclusively for profit.

What is a potential user?  Classically this is the Customer – that capital “C” is intentional.  My experience in quality management has trained me to take a Total Quality Management perspective of the Customer.  I strongly encourage innovators to focus on the Customer and meeting their needs.  Seems like common sense but, unfortunately, common sense is not too common.  Now how you define your Customer is largely a function of your innovation goal.  My emphasis is that you should not only take the reverent view of serving the Customer’s needs with your innovation but also recognize that you had better have a Customer for it.

Typically, the supplier of a good or service provides the innovation and the Customer pays for it.  This is obvious to businesses but I am emphasizing the point for non-profit enterprises.  A non-profit enterprise has a Customer too.  Perhaps they do not pay for your innovation in which case we might want to refer to them as a Beneficiary.  Regardless of the payee, your innovation has a Customer.  And, your innovation is dead on arrival unless it serves the need of your Customer.

The definition of products vs. services and customers vs. beneficiaries has led me to define this process as the creation of innovations.  In this way we can apply this process to a variety of products or services or enterprises which is what I see as its possibility.

Finally, what is a process?  Those of us in the business world have been trained and educated to document our business processes, measure them incessantly, and create improvements to make them ever more efficient and effective.  Strangely, many other enterprises don’t have such a perspective.  But whether you are an innovative humanitarian service or a high-tech electronics entrepreneur, you need well defined operating processes.

Innovation Development is an atypical process in a business producing products.  It is often overlooked or nonexistent in service providers.  And new enterprises are seldom even considering what they do as a process at all.  Yet each of these enterprises develops innovations.  Innovation Development is an unusual process for any enterprise, unlike most other processes.  My experience has demonstrated to me that a process for Innovation Development is not well known by innovators and it would be beneficial to define it.

Innovation Development is also a process practiced infrequently and often with different people on each project.  This combination of unusual process characteristics, infrequent use, and unfamiliarity of its users makes Innovation Development an activity in need of frameworks for implementation and guidance for execution.  Defining a framework for a process and guiding its implementation to create your innovation is the main goal of this present work.


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