Asked to pick from four definitions of innovation at London Business School’s Global Leadership Summit last week, 58 per cent of the audience selected the shortest and widest (from The Economist): “fresh thinking that creates value”.
No wonder virtually every business with a public face includes the word “innovation” in its mission statement, making the term as meaningless as “shareholder value” and “sustainability”.
Yet I still agree with the broad view laid out decades ago by management thinker Peter Drucker: that innovation is one of only two basic functions of business (the other being marketing). Without innovation, as George Buckley, chief executive of 3M, pointed out at the LBS conference, most companies would never beat a benchmark growth rate.
Google is known for allowing its engineers “20 per cent time” – one day a week to work on their own projects. 3M has offered its staff “15 per cent time” since 1948 (although, interestingly, it works out more like 5 per cent when staff who decline the offer are taken into account).
Applied loosely, these suggestions would be a licence for laxity.
Several interesting points:  “fresh thinking that creates value” is not as good as mine: innovation (or more appropriately entrepreneurship) is accumulated choices;  At 3M many employees turned down the offer to work 15% on projects of one’s choice;  Peter Drucker lists innovation and marketing as the two fundamental functions of a business;  BE, especially BF, only look at the the demand side of equity premium and ignore the supply side altogether. More innovative is the largest source of equity premium!