Mark Hammer

I’m in the midst of a debate on a hobby-related forum regarding “genius”, “creativity”, and “talent”, so “innovation” is only a short skip away.

Most employee surveys I see will include a question that more or less inquires whether they are encouraged to be “innovative” in their workplace, so clearly people place some value on it. But at what point is innovation simply disruptive? Should we expect, or do we want, border/prison guards or regulatory officers (environment or food-safety inspectors) to be “innovative”?

Well, no, most folks would respond. This would suggest that the definition of innovation is both different, depending on context, and different depending on role.

Then there is the the other aspect of innovation: the evidence. Years ago, a buddy showed me a wonderful ad slogan for the advertising company Benton & Bowles: It’s not creative unless it sells. ( http://www.thesuccessionplanner.com/exit-strategies/remembering-its… ) Innovations have to accomplish something, not be merely new and different. Some “innovations” can simply involve borrowing something from another domain and applying it to a context where it hadn’t been applied before. Even if it isn’t a brand new idea per se, if it allows your organization or work unit to accomplish things or accomplish them with a degree of facility or coordination not previously attainable, that can count as innovation.

Here’s an interesting on-line journal I had the pleasure of writing a few book-reviews for, that’s all about innovation in the public sector: http://www.innovation.cc/ . Maybe there’s some good ideas there.