Everyone is talking about innovation. It seems wherever I look at the moment innovation is centre stage, the search for the next big idea, the breakthrough!

Clearly to thrive in the competitive digital world demands continual innovation, innovation of products, services and often of the organisation itself is essential. Being comfortably unchanging just isn’t an option, and for good reason, 89 percent of the companies that existed in the Fortune 500 in 1955 have now disappeared[1].  Now that’s 60 years, but it’s still an amazing statistic. Being perpetually restless, searching and striving is clearly, and increasingly so, the only way to survive.

But is it that simple? Generate new ideas and the future is secured?

Bill Gross, founder of Idealab (http://www.idealab.com/ ), recently analysed the outcomes from the many sessions Idealab has held helping various organisations try to develop, and take to market, new ideas and innovations. What he found out was that having a bright idea, whilst good to have, is not the key factor for success. According to Bill’s research the most important factors are actually timing and team with the “idea” only coming third![2]

So ideas are good but they need to hit the Zeitgeist, connect with reality, and deliver quickly, if they are going to have impact. Where would ASOS be today without broadband…Boo.com! A great idea that failed, not because it was a bad idea but because the connectivity users needed wasn’t available.  The timing wasn’t right…

Which got me thinking – just what is this innovation that everyone is talking about?

Well for me innovation isn’t just one thing…there are at least  three flavours, each very different to the others:

1.      Imaginative – the eureka moment, outside the box thinking, net new, disruptive e.g. Graphene

2.      Derivative – a corralling of what is known, and knowable, combined in novel ways to make something new e.g. the iPhone?

3.      Evolutionary – simply figuring out how to do what you do today in a better way. The 1% marginal improvement of everything e.g. the way the Dave Brailsford made the Team Sky cycling team world champions 

So which one is innovation for you?