The Definition of Innovation Defines a Presentation

Christopher Witt —  December 8, 2012

Innovation is quite the in thing these days, at least in business circles. What’s not to like about it? Is anyone in favor of stagnation?

But as with many things, before answering the how question (how do we innovate?), we have to answer the what question (what is innovation?).

And there’s the rub. Everyone supports innovation, it seems, but few people agree on its definition. Don’t believe me? Google “define innovation” and you’ll get 39,400,000 results. (That isn’t to say, of course, there are that many definitions, but there are a lot.)

Here are some of the definitions of innovation that appear at the top of Google’s ranking:

“Innovation is the development of new customers [sic] value through solutions that meet new needs, inarticulate needs, or old customer and market needs in new ways.”

“The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.”
business dictionary

“Innovation: A change in a product offering, service, business model or operations which meaningfully improves the experience of a large number of stakeholders.”
Hutch Carpenter

“I define innovation as: executing new ideas to create value.”
Tim Kastelle

The wikipedia definition crams so many buzzwords into one sentence that it sounds like a parody of business speak. And most definitions include another common business term — “value” — which is, itself, undefined.

Still, most definitions share three common elements. In business, innovation is

    1. a process for implementing an idea
    2. that creates something new (e.g., a product or service)
    3. that provides value for end users (e.g., customers or clients).

If that’s what innovation is, a presentation is an innovation of sorts. Or, at least, a presentation shares those same three elements.

First, a presentation introduces and makes the case for implementing an idea. In business, which is different from academia, presentations aren’t just about educating people. They’re about giving people information or knowledge that can be used in some way.

Second, a presentation creates something new. It changes — or intents to change — the way people think or feel or act. There’s no reason to make a presentation if you want your audience to remain the way they’ve always been.

Third, a presentation has to provide value to your audience. I like to define value as a “desired benefit.” You always have to ask why your audience would want to do what you want them to do. Why would they want to adopt, endorse, or implement the change you’re proposing? How will they benefit? Do they want that benefit?

So what do you think? Have I defined innovation correctly? Would you define it different? Do you agree or disagree with my defining a presentation as a form or example of innovation?


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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.

2 responses to The Definition of Innovation Defines a Presentation

  1. Interesting post. In terms of innovation I have a very nice example: “If the Blockbuster would think about the innovation the Netflix would not be here.” This way – they just dropped the ball. Innovation is one of the most important thing for the business.

  2. Thanks Christopher, I found your insights helpful. Yes I believe you can be innovative with presentations, as with everything, if you focus on adding more value to your end-user or the audience in this case. But not all presentations are innovative of course. The only thing I would add is that in terms of ‘creating something new’ it could be a new way of delivering an existing product or service too, not just a new one. So using a new technology like prezi instead of your usual powerpoint to deliver a message to your audience which is appreciated by them more is another way your presentation could be innovative.