I know it is a simple question.


It is surprisingly difficult to achieve a consensus among leaders i work with on exactly what innovation is in their organisation.

You might say — why does it matter?

Perhaps it is enough to recognise innovation when it emerges?

The problem with not defining innovation is this:

Unless the leadership group are at one in understanding what innovation is in their business it is problematic whether anyone else will understand.

Also unless you can define what innovation is it is hard to measure it.

And unless leaders measure innovation it may not get done.

So lets agree that defining innovation is an important management and leadership activity.

I would also suggest that there is no one single definition that suits every organisation. It depends on the business, heritage, business model, culture and values etc.

However here are some definitions you can use as a starting point:

“Innovation is the creation of something that improves the way we live our lives”

Barack Obama.

Innovation is something fresh (new, original, or improved) that creates value.

Jeff Dance.

“Innovation is any idea that adds value.”

Baxter Healthcare – Australia

“Innovation is significant positive change”.

Scott Berkun


“Innovation is change that creates a new dimension of performance.”

Peter Drucker.


“I define innovation as executing new ideas to create value.”

Tim Kastelle

“Innovation is the commercialization of creativity.”



“Innovation is the creation, development and implementation of a new product, process or service, with the aim of improving efficiency, effectiveness or competitive advantage.”

Government of New Zealand


Innovation is the successful exploitation of new ideas.”

UK Department of Innovation and Skills


“Innovation is the successful implementation of creative ideas within an organization.”

Professor Teresa Amabile


For completeness here are my definitions of business creativity & innovation (think about this as having a yin and yang quality):

Creativity is the ability to create new and potentially valuable ideas in any activity.

Innovation is the process of transforming these ideas into a commercial reality (i.e. testing, measuring, learning & sharing).


I hope this helps.

I would love to hear from you what is your definition of creativity and innovation?

And why does it resonate in your organisation?

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