Defining Innovation

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What is innovation? The term is everywhere, but what does it actually mean to innovate?

The lexical root of innovation is nouvos, or new.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines innovation as:

innovation |ˌinəˈvāSHən|


the action or process of innovating.

• a new method, idea, product, etc.: technological innovations designed to save energy.

Wikipedia, always changing, defines it as:

Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and, as consequence, new that “breaks into” the market or society.

Social innovation is taking that idea and applying it to social systems. The Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto and New York City defines social innovation as:

Social Innovation refers to new ideas that resolve existing social, cultural, economic and environmental challenges for the benefit of people and planet. A true social innovation is systems-changing – it permanently alters the perceptions, behaviours and structures that previously gave rise to these challenges.

They add:

Even more simply, a social innovation is an idea that works for the public good.

The editors of the Stanford Social Innovation Review publication define social innovation this way:

A novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.

So by generating something new and transposing its value to the social world, we socially innovate. What say you?

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