Recent research[1] shows that there are over 40 definitions of the word innovation. Authors like Zairi (1994)[2] and Cooper (1998)[3] have suggested that one of the challenges of innovation is the lack of a common definition which undermines understanding of the nature of innovation. Thompson (1965, p. 2)[4], for example, briefly states that “[i]nnovation is the generation, acceptance and implementation of new ideas, processes products or services.” Other variations of the definition of innovation are the product of different disciplinary perspectives which come short of making the picture clearer. Nonetheless, a definition by Crossan and Apaydin (2010)[5] stood out as comprehensive enough, while at the same time enveloping the most significant aspects of the term, and adaptable to different disciplines which handle the term :

"Innovation is: production or adoption, assimilation, and exploitation of a value-added novelty in economic and social spheres; renewal and enlargement of products, services, and markets; development of new methods of production; and establishment of new management systems. It is both a process and an outcome."

Another useful definition is found in the Oslo Manual (2005)[6] of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):

“An innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations.”

It is important to note that both definitions imply that contrary to common perceptions “invention” and “innovation” are two closely-related but distinct concepts. The dividing line was first drawn rather implicitly in Schumpeter’s “Theory of Economic Development”[7], where the author accentuates on the interlink between independent inventors and firms/entrepreneurs who implement their inventions into marketable products. While the term “invention” overlaps with technological progress and novelty, innovation is narrowed down to the organizational/business measures on the practical utilization of a breakthrough. Thus, invention is a predecessor to innovation, since the first represents the impulse and the second – the momentum. A popular example is the Apple iPhone, which constituted a major-success innovation, but could be dissected per se into separate individual pieces of technology, which were invented way before the appearance of the first generation of the mobile product.

As a conclusion, innovation inevitably involves change. It can be perceived as both the process of change and the end-product from that process. Last but not least, the aforesaid change can come in various different forms – new products, materials, new processes, services, new organizational structures, etc.

[1] Edison H., bin Ali N., Torkar R., Towards innovation measurement in the software industry, Journal of Systems and Software 86 (2013), 1390-1407

[2] Zairi M., Innovation or innovativeness? Results of a benchmarking study (1994), TQM Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 3, p.10-16

[3] Cooper J.R., A Multidimensional Approach to the Adoption of Innovation (1988), Management Decision, Vol. 36, No.8, p.493-502

[4] Thompson V.A., Bureaucracy and innovation (1965), Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol.10, p. 1-20.

[5] Crossan M., Apaydin M., A Multi-Dimensional Framework of Organizational Innovation: A Systematic Review of the Literature, Journal of Management Studies, Volume 47, Issue 6 (September 2010), 1154-1191

[6] OECD, Eurostat - Oslo Manual (Third Edition),

[7] Schumpeter J.A., The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest and the Business Cycle (1911)