Is This the Proper Definition of Innovation?

How do you define innovation? It seems company leaders use the word differently than some people think is appropriate, but nonetheless it has become a favorite buzzword in many corporations. In this blog, Rick Aspan looks into the topic and explains how innovation applies within CommScope.

InnovationIf there were a corporate buzzword trending list, Dennis Berman of the Wall Street Journal has identified one that is hot—innovation.

In his December 3 column, Berman cites data showing that in 2007, 99 companies in the S&P 500 mentioned “innovation” in their third quarter investor conference calls. Compare that to this year, when the number almost doubled to 197—with “innovation” tagged to things such as perfumes, pet tattoos, credit reports and higher-alcohol beer.

Who knew the corporate world was so awash in innovation? Ah, but there may be a catch—not all, apparently, are true to the word’s definition. Instead, the author claims, company leaders are actually describing their firms’ abilities to compete, adapt or simply implement run-of-the-mill product extensions. It seems that companies define innovation in ways that fit them best, but they use the word because it has appeal.

I took personal interest in Mr. Berman’s observations, as CommScope embraces innovation as one of its three core values. So did I blush with embarrassment after reading the article? Not one bit. In fact, I’d suggest it validates CommScope’s proud and prominent use of the word.

Most people, I believe, associate innovation with inventions and the work done by teams of engineers and scientists in an R&D setting. That is an accurate definition and one that certainly applies to CommScope. We hold about 2,700 patents and patent applications, and have invested more than $1 billion in R&D over the past decade. We continually rank in the Patent Board’s list of top corporate holders of intellectual property in the telecommunications and communications sectors.

We are proud of that, and how this work and investment benefits customers. But to CommScope, innovation as a core value represents much more than R&D, patents and inventions. Innovation is equally about creativity and new ideas.

We innovate by constantly challenging ourselves and each other on ways to meaningfully improve or change an existing process or way of doing things, leading to a better outcome. We value and encourage fresh thinking that stimulates new, creative approaches to a problem, or that sets in motion our tackling of a new opportunity to achieve greater success with customers.

Some of the best innovations are not shiny new products. They may be an improved customer service approach, a more efficient way to manufacture that helps deliver products to customers faster or at less cost, breakthrough marketing campaigns that resonate with customers, a clever method of solving a quality issue, or a training program that helps salespeople create tighter bonds with partners and customers.

In that context, our innovators aren’t just wearing lab coats. All 12,000 employees within CommScope own and embody innovation every day.

That’s my view on innovation. What’s yours? Let me know in the comment section below.