Much is said these days about “innovation” and “innovations,” but I think that “innovation” is being thought about in a vague and unhelpful manner.
When we have talked about innovations, we have for a long while been concerned with some particular things. We have said “ah, that [thing] is such an innovation.” And sometimes we have admitted that these things are the results of some process, a process that we have come to call “innovation” or “innovating” — as it results, presumably, in the creation of innovations.
However, I think that this focus upon the result of the process of innovation (or innovating) have caused us to overlook what innovation really is. As a result, I think that we lack an understanding of what enables “innovations” to emerge and why, after a time, they lose their innovativeness.
Reconception of Innovation or Innovating
When we think about innovation, we should think about the process that preceded the result. We should think about the process of innovation, or “innovating,” as a process in which people care about something that others either do not care about or do not care enough about.
By thinking about innovation this way, we can:
- better understand the process of innovation, which may increase the likelihood of “innovations” being produced
- see how things that were once considered to be “innovations” ceased to be regarded as innovative, outside of history books1
What would-be Innovators would do
According to this conception of innovation, any person that is interested in being a creator of innovations should concern themselves with considering and caring about things that others either do not care about or do not care enough about.
A thing ceases to be regarded as being “innovative” once the things that are cared for/about through its existence become appropriately and commonly cared about.
For instance, prior to the advent of the iPhone, the ‘importance of designing interfaces specifically for use on a touchscreen device’ was seemingly under-cared about, so when the iPhone debuted with an interface that was designed exclusively for use though its touchscreen, it was regarded as being innovative for how it demonstrated the ‘importance of designing interfaces specifically for use on a touchscreen device’. However, now that the importance of such has been widely accepted and other software and hardware creators have (arguably) matched Apple’s ability to pay homage to the ‘importance of designing interfaces specifically for use on a touchscreen device’, the iPhone is regarded as being less innovative than it had once been with regards to the degree to which it pays homage to the ‘importance of designing interfaces specifically for use on a touchscreen device’. ↩