What is Innovation

The problem with innovation is that it is a word used all the time with the expectation that using the word somehow makes things better. A definition for innovation is a bit harder to nail down. Here are some examples.


Something new or different


Change that adds value – Roger La Salle who invented Matrix Thinking and the Innovation Matrix. His latest book is called “Innovate or Perish”!


Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Wikipedia


The Australian Government website on Innovation lists the programs on offer but avoids a definition.


Innovation Matters


Innovate or Perish

Innovate or Perish

The graph above shows the need for Innovation on a continual basis and not just a single event. It is taken from the Matrix Thinking website.


Innovation matters because without it, entropy ensures we go backward. There is no standing still. The graph above shows the financial implications of this. There is only forward and backward. A very scary set of statistics for Australia come from the Australian Intellectual Property Scorecard which shows that in every significant way, Australian Innovation has gone backward over the period from 2005-2009. Now 2009 was a tough year, but the trend pre-dates this so you can’t just dismiss it as a consequence of the GFC. It was happening in the full on growth period that preceded it. Here is a brief summary of my reading of the report:


  • Only 10% of Patents filed in Australia are by Australians
  • Australian Patents to Australians fell 20%
  • International Patents to Australians fell 20%
  • USA Patents granted to Australians rose to 0.7% then fell back to 0.6%
  • European Patents granted to Australians rose to 0.55% then fell back to 0.45%


This is not the sign of a healthy Innovation Environment. The slow decline in Australian Manufacturing is certainly one of the reasons but it seems we have just become less interested in Innovating.


Australians granted Australian Patents

Australians granted Australian Patents

Innovation Requires Need

I read with interest The Innovation Machine on how a range of different companies ensure innovation happens. Google and 3M are famous for their Innovation strategies which includes employees having discretion over how some of their time is spent so they can pursue things that interest them. The argument in the article however is that Innovation is unnatural, and so you must create an environment that ensure Innovation occurs.


In a second article that touches on this point on Israeli Entepreneurs, an Israeli company Optibase has cutting edge video equipment which only exists because of the Israeli military. Staying alive is a powerful motivator and the military are keen for improvements to come from anywhere. Innovation is expected!


Our business creates or updates roughly 100 new products each year. So for us, new is normal. And this need makes Innovation essential. This is one of the advantages of working with an external product development consultancy. Even if you have the internal skills to do the work yourself, an external viewpoint will always be different. The ultimate aim is to be able to harness the best of both to get a better outcome than you could from either alone.


Innovation can also be stifled and this is not just an Australian phenomenon. I covered this is Prototypes Blunt Innovation.


My thanks go to Dr Marc Dussault, The Exponential Growth Strategist for the links which prompted this post.


Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2012 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd