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Innovation: How do you define it?

12 July 2021

Read more about our recent online network event for young professionals.

The Young Professionals Network recently held an event titled 'Innovation: I just don't know where to start', hosted by co-chairs Nikki Hussey and Thomas Charnley. We heard from panelists Alex Herrity, Senior Director at adidas, Alice Collins, Global Head of Data and Innovation at Fujitsu, and our very own Jonathan Patterson (JP), Managing Director at Innovation & Ventures. 

The session kicked off with a discussion on the topic of what innovation means to each of the panellists. At DWF we define innovation as: new ideas that we can turn into commercial value. As JP puts it, "half the battle is coming up with a new idea, but the other half is turning that idea into something that is valuable for our business, or that can help us serve our clients". 

For me, the meaning of innovation can be dependent upon the context – which is why corporates are beginning to more clearly define innovation according to their distinct strategic goals and culture. At adidas they feel that context is the most important thing when it comes to innovation. As long as ideas and innovations are impactful in the context that they are applied, it doesn't matter whether they are small, incremental improvements or big, systemic changes – it's the outcomes and impact that matter.

By no means does innovation have to be 'big bang' change, it's an iterative process, and one that isn't always linear. Alice talked about the idea of innovation as a process at Fujitsu, explaining that people often consider innovation to be the starting point when coming up with a new idea, but for her, it's creativity. Having been with Innovation & Ventures for just over 4 months, it is clear to me that creativity and innovation are intrinsically linked. Through creativity we are able to develop new and exciting ideas, and innovation is the part of the process through which those ideas are commercialised to deliver value. In Alice's words "innovation is a multi-step process that starts with creativity and ends with a tangible, useful solution – innovation isn't born from doing things the way they've always been done". 

Thinking differently, understanding different perspectives, and adopting different work styles all contribute towards our ability to innovation, but we can't do this without a culture that supports creativity. By fostering an environment where it is safe to express ideas without fear of judgement we can overcome the fear of failure.

The best way to deal with the fear of failure is to just have a go, to step up, share your idea and learn from the feedback. 

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