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Innovation: The Hard Lifting Matters

Innovation is usually associated with a sudden flash of inspiration. A “eureka” moment while taking a nice hot bath or, for some of us gourmet coffee lovers, the caffeine inspired thoughts we have during our Sunday morning sit-in at our favorite coffee shop.

Well, whilst the initial new idea may indeed be the start of the innovation process, the requisite rigor (or hard lifting as it were) usually follows.

Before we go any further it is perhaps useful to define innovation. There is the commonly accepted differentiation between process and product innovation as well as categorizing innovation into types: process, product/service, business concept. Alternatively, we can view it in dichotomous terms: incremental versus radical, sustaining versus discontinuous.

Be that as it may, the basic point is that having a great idea is not enough. For an invention to become innovation, we need to successfully tap into a commercial opportunity. In other words, some value creation needs to take place for an idea or technology to be regarded as innovative.

What is more, innovation does not have to take very long. The basic proposition can take shape rapidly and on a small scale, and by learning from the experience, it can improve in an iterative way. The idea of ‘failing fast’ as a way of fueling innovation, thereby reducing eventual risk, is now well accepted. What is key, is the ability to extract key insights along the way and answering specific questions be they technical, manufacturing or marketing. Without the hard lifting, the great initial idea will remain just that!

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