What makes something ‘an innovation?’

I found this, an article called ‘The Adoption of Innovation.’

Characteristics of the innovation include:

  • ‘Relevance: Confidence that an innovation can help address a relevant problem.
  • ‘Observability: Ability to demonstrate and evidence a positive impact from this innovation (compared to how things are done currently).
  • ‘Adaptability: Capacity of the organization to adapt and build institutional capabilities. This includes aligned core processes and systems, and coherence between old and new ways of working.
  • ‘Sustainability: Resources to enable staff and potentially partners to leverage a specific method, approach, or technology.

‘Once confident that the innovation meets these basic characteristics, it’s important to articulate and tap into a vision for how to adopt the innovation. What will our organization look like in five years, once we have adopted this innovation? Aligning around this vision will build commitment and momentum, and create the space to “think backward”: to articulate what needs to happen to reach this vision of the future.’ Read more stories by Benjamin Kumpf & Emma Proud.


What makes it innovative is that it changes something for the better, and you can see that, and it lasts.

Reading through the list above and interpreting it in plain English, here is what I got. If you call something ‘innovative,’ there’s a technical definition for that. It means that the thing or process is useful, something you can see apparently as an improvement, something that is flexible to adapt as circumstances do, and something that won’t peter out and fade because it can’t keep momentum.

I like this list.

It’s a good baseline for what you can point to and say, ‘Yup. That. That was innovative.’