Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. By Rembrandt. Public Domain

Minerva, Roman Goddess of Wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. By Rembrandt. Public Domain

To innovate proceed from the ancient Roman word innovare. Its direct translation would be “to renovate” or “to repair”. Nowadays its meaning is very different to that word for the ancient Romans. We usually link the word innovation to novelty instead of improvement. This is one of the main errors of not professional innovators, because both properties are needed in order to produce a true innovation. There is innovation with neither novelty nor improvement.

The concept of innovation is defined by several properties, however, depending on the people using that concept some of them are considered more important. Psychologists like “creativity” as synonym of “novelty”. Engineers like “functionality”. Economists like “value”. Strategists like “effectiveness”. Quality professionals like “efficiency”. Perhaps, the original Roman meaning is nearer quality professionals than any other one.

Our current society is driven by technology development. Technologists usually consider functionality as something more important in front of other properties of a true innovation. However, all of them are linked. At the first glance, there is a clear link between efficiency and economic value, and there is another one between functionality and effectiveness. On the other hand more functionality usually implies more creativity. Complexity joins both sides of innovation, because the higher the functionality the higher the complexity, and an increasing complexity finally reduces the efficiency of any system and then the value that can be extracted from an innovation.

The true meaning of innovation is not very far from the Roman root because the aim of an innovation is to increase value. When an innovation is driven by a need of improvement, it is fast and easily accepted by markets. When an innovation is driven by a newly developed functionality, markets need some time to identify and to learn the created value. An innovation that does not provide value, it is never accepted by markets and finally it is discarded. Only novelties with value are true innovations.

Creativity is important to produce innovation but they are very different concepts. Innovation is a process that requires creativity but the creative process is not producing permanent value if it is not improving functionality or efficiency. Fashion world, for instance, is built around creativity, and in fact, it is taking advantage of being very different from this concept of innovation. Because fashion business requires changes in the preferences of people in order to preserve a high market volume. This is not possible to be preserved through functionality increases of efficiency only.

A model of innovation management based only on the promotion of creativity has the risk of become similar to a fashion business, and not all markets will accept changes of restyling without functionality or efficiency improvements. This is only possible for products that are usually seen in a social environment where markets are driven by social trends, but most markets traditionally have been very far from this fact.

On the other hand, social networks are producing a new effect in our societies. As people share their experience about any kind of products at the social networks innovations based on true value creation can be replaced by restyling and driven in a fashionable way. The value of fashion cannot be analyzed from the classic quality terms of effectiveness and efficiency and new ways of analyzing traditional markets will be implemented, in many other markets, however, it is important to realize that temporary preferences may not as good basement as permanent increases of real value to run many business because different industries have different costs structures.

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