Innovation: Moving Past the Jargon

post-it-notesInnovation is a term that is used a lot in current organizational jargon. We talk about its importance, the need for it, and why we all need to be innovative. But what is innovation? In asking people to define it I hear a wide spectrum of definitions. I mostly hear terms that people associate with innovation. These include change, creativity, doing things differently, and new products (particularly related to technology). Defining innovation helps us create better opportunities for innovation.

eXtension CEO Chris Geith has defined innovation as “applying creativity to create an impact”. In this definition we recognize that while creativity is important, it must be applied. We all have creative ideas, but unless we try to act on them they mostly occur in a vacuum. Impact is also critical. In an era of limited resources we need to direct them to projects and ideas that can have an impact.

Three other attributes of innovation are:

It usually focuses on creating new things, not just slightly improving them.

  • It can be disruptive, like when the personal computer disrupted the use of mainframe computers.
  • Innovation is not just associated with new products. The Doblin Group has identified 10 types of innovation: https://www.doblin.com/tentypes/. These include marketing, systems, and others.
  • Once we better understand innovation and its attributes we can start to make better decisions about what projects are innovative and how to increase Extension’s ability to innovate.

eXtension has made innovation one of its key cornerstones (along with issues and impact) in its new strategy. In January our innovation lab will announce a call for innovation grants and fellowships. These are great opportunities for those that are planning or starting projects that are innovative, or want to use a fellowship to better develop a concept or ideas. In the interim please feel free to contact me with any ideas or thoughts about innovation. I can be reached at jthomas@extension.org or at 419.306.9400. Also consider attending the monthly Innovation Team Web Conferences (first Tuesday of each month at 2:30PM ET; connection information posted in Learn: https://learn.extension.org/) and the Ed Tech Learning Network tweetups. These are held in Twitter using the hashtag #EdTechLN. More information and notices are at: http://www.extedtechs.org/ .