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Dilemma of Innovative Idea

Innovator usually has two questions - Is my idea innovative? The answer is simple- YES, but at the same time organization may or may not accept it for incubation. Thus, innovator has next question- How organization select the idea for incubation.

Dictionary meaning of innovation is something new, may be a new method, process or a product, etc. Thus, innovative idea has to be new. When we say an innovative idea or a new idea, we always think about a path breaking idea or a very unique idea which never existed in this universe. However, this common perception is untrue. Are we looking for innovation or invention? In an invention, we look for something new which never existed, while in an innovation newness has an importance but it may exist somewhere else and not in the current context of idea. Innovation can't be an invention rather it is smart adoption of invention. One of the best and the most commercially successful nature inspired invention- Velcro is biommicry of burdock burrs. This invention has innovatively used in various products and we always see new innovations of it. Thus, Velcro is a single invention and has used in multiple innovations.

There are many such examples of innovations which are derived from inventions. Most of us believe that touchscreen based mobile is the best innovation. Is touch-screen an innovation? No, touch screen technology was invented in 1965, and it is in the use since then for various purposes. Some of us might have seen touch screen based Kiosk before the launch of touch screen based mobile. Then, what is the innovation in touch screen based mobile; and the answer is - replacing physical keypad by touch screen to improve user experience. Thus adoption of technology for better experience is the real innovation. Another good example is LED. They are in the market since 1968 and since then we have seen many innovations around them. The recent one is adoption for house/office and car lighting. Thus, innovation necessarily need not be invention.

Innovative idea can also be the smart implementation of things from the other fields. Use of camera and social media in a mobile is the best example of innovation which integrated two known different technologies. It helped user to take a picture and upload immediately on a social media site. E-commerce is the good example of better implementation of the same idea. Amazon used it successfully and made it popular though it was in use before Amazon. Some innovations are also adopted from the nature. Most innovative aerodynamic designs of automobiles are inspired by nature.

Therefore, apart from the dictionary definition of an innovative idea, it can also be defined as any existing idea which is new in the context of its use.

By this definition, organization may not always accept and invest in new ideas. Organizations will always look for some qualifier to nominate an innovative idea for incubation. This qualifier is an opportunity in pursuing the idea. The opportunities are mostly financial or nonfinancial. After using touch screen into mobiles, the handset manufactures earned a lot of money. This is a clear case of financial benefits. However, improving the processes within the organization for the speedy approval of employee's welfares may be nonfinancial benefit for the organization but positive impact on the productivity because of the employee's happiness is the real benefit for the organization.
When an organization is looking for a new idea, it is mostly judged by the size of opportunity or impact of an idea over a business and a customer, and infrastructure readiness of the organization. Every organization has its own model for calculating size of opportunity or impact of an idea over a business.

If organization is ready for accepting the innovative idea then the next question is, how and who will pursue it in the organization. The answer is simple- it depends on the size of opportunity or impact of an idea over a business. If opportunity or impact is huge then organization usually pursues it on the high priority and may be incubated centrally or at unit level. If opportunity or impact is not so great but organization has advantage if implemented and also investment required is also manageable, then idea is implemented as a routine work. Mostly incremental changes are implemented through regular channel rather than innovative idea.  Sometimes, idea may be implemented without considering an opportunity or impact because competitor has implemented it or it is pursued as an edge over the competitors.

Thus, innovator has to understand the two set of questions to overcome the dilemma

  1. Idea: Is the idea new? Is it completely new or adopted from other areas? What is it the best way to adopt a new idea?
  2. Idea Buying by Organization: Why organization should adopt the idea? Who will be benefited from the implementation of your idea? Why is this idea important for the organization? What is the size of opportunity? What is the impact on business? Is it financial or nonfinancial gain to organization?

The last and most important question is: Will you start your startup with this idea? If answer is yes, then there is high probability that your idea may be accepted for incubation by the organization.


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