Last updated: August 6, 2019
Topic: AutomotiveCommercial
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Innovation is a central idea in the popular imaginary, in the
media, in public policy and is part of everybody’s vocabulary. In recent
years, the quest to drive innovation has received greater prominence across all
sectors, and the field of “innovation studies” has grown rapidly in recent years (Fagerberg, Fosaas,
& Sapprasert; 2011). Several thousand academics worldwide are currently
researching innovation issue in different fields (Greenhalgh, Robert,
Macfarlane, Bate, & Kyriakidou, 2004) and the humanitarian sector or philanthropist
organizations have not been immune from this (Ramalingam, Scriven & Foley,
2009). Infact, social development is becoming increasingly challenging and
complex, seemingly in response to the unpredictable circumstances due to a
growing list of problems (Bagoli and Mengali, 2011). Briefly stated, innovation
has become the emblem of the modern society, a panacea for resolving many
problems, and a phenomenon to be studied (Godin; 2010).

Etymology of Innovation:

Innovation acquired
importance in twentieth century and is widely discussed in the scientific and
technical literature, and also in social sciences like history, sociology,
management and economics. The term ‘innovation’ has become the logo of the
modern society, a cure for resolving many problems, and a phenomenon to be
studied (Greenhalgh et al., 2004). But as a matter of fact, it has always
existed and the concept itself emerged centuries ago.

At the very beginning, innovation was rather concerned
with change, broadly understood, and had nothing to do with creativity at large
((Fagerberg et al., 2011). The historical study of innovation as a process or
creativity reveals that invention and imitation are two sequential steps in the
process leading to innovation (Godin, 2008).

Imitation: is a Greek concept of 18th
century that meant ‘copying’. It surfaced prominently by Plato’s Philosophy
(appearance vs reality, falsity vs truth) that even physical objects are
imitations of our thoughts (McKeon, 1936). But Aristotle gave it a new concept
that its arts that imitates appearance of nature or reality, and hence, in the
middle ages and in the Renaissance literature, the imitated work of artisans
was highly appreciated as rediscovery of the old, something “new” to copy, and
as something never seen before (Newman, 1989). In trades and goods, substitutes
or imported commodities were imitated and even in the open markets, premiums or
awards were granted for best imitation of a foreign good (Rossky, 1958). In the
twentieth century, the concepts like ‘diffusion’ and ‘adoption’ were associated
with the concept of imitation (Godin; 2008). The contemporary theories on innovation,
which will be described later in the chapter, also include diffusion and adoption
as mandatory steps in the innovation process. Such as in recent theories on and
measurements of technological innovation, adopting an existing technology is a
behavior considered just as innovative as inventing (OECD, 2005), and not as
mere imitation. In the recent history, Levitt (1966) suggests that as not every
organization can afford to create and try something new, it opts for imitation
for its survival and effectiveness. As per Levitt (1966), “the greatest flow of newness is not innovation at all. Rather, it is
imitation” and thus a company creates “its
own imitative equivalents of the innovative products created by others”.

Imitation requires work, experimentation, judgment and
imagination. All these descriptions in literature, arts and crafts generally
refer to an idea that has been very influential among many authors in defining
invention, and subsequently innovation.

Invention: is a term popularized in late 18th and early 19th
century and comes from rhetoric. Also, imitation has close links to invention, and even
constitutes invention itself. With time imitation came to be contrasted to
invention (Godin, 2008). Starting from the mid-eighteenth century, imitation
was regarded as mere copying, while originality became the criterion for real
invention (Levitt, 1966). But it has its roots from the mid-fourteenth
century and was referred to discovery, with regard to knowledge, or science (Harrison,
2001). In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the ideas of novelty and
revolution (e.g. in literature, science and visual arts) was associated to
invention and became widespread and developed a cultural value (Spadafora,

Renaissance adapted invention from the literature on rhetoric to a
psychological process of imagination (Rossky, 1958), and the concept was
applied to mention the things like “machines, artifices, devices, engines,
methods” (Long, 2001). In
the early 19th century, it tend to be developed as mechanical or technological
invention, such as architecture, navigation, metallurgy, military, tunnels and
railways, and the other electrical systems (Chandler, 1990; Hughes, 1983). This is then in the start of
20th century when the development of industries based on the
research laboratory, and the commercialization of technological inventions were
major factors contributing to a conception of invention as technological
invention and emerged as innovative concepts (Long, 2001). For the first time,
the sociology literature in 1940s to 1960s, used the terms invention and
innovation as synonyms.

Describing and defining Innovation:

It is in
thirteenth century when the term ‘novation’ became in use in law as renewing or
‘newness’ for any amendments in legislative contracts for a new debtor. It is
until the twentieth century, when the term ‘novation’ in other literatures like
arts and sciences (Godin, 2008). A part from that, all the other literary
writings or debates on innovation or newness, especially in mid-seventh and
early eighteenth century, innovation was referred to as ‘change’ and not
‘creativity’ and so was mostly taken as negative and ‘evil’ (Godin, 2010). Such
as in politics, ‘innovation’ was negatively received for as a change or
alterations in the political ideologies (Burke, 1974). Whereas in religious
affairs, innovation was considered unorthodoxy or anything deviant in any
affairs of the Church. Godin (2010), in his article cites an extreme
case from 1636, when an English Puritan (Protestant) and former royal
official, Henry Burton, began publishing pamphlets advocating against bishops
as innovators in the matters of Church. In turn, he himself was accused of
being the true “innovator” by the law and was sentenced to ears
cutoff and a lifetime in prison.

It is, then, in
the second half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century when
innovation was positively associated with science and industry for more
positive revolutions in the respective fields, although the focus was more on
the technical invention (Thomson; 2009). Through the establishment of
governmental research and development labs in Europe, increased number of
patents and the rise of consumer culture, helped the concept of “invention” to
make its significant association with the industry (Maclaurin, 1953; Khilji,
Mroczkowski, & Bernstein; 2006). The twentieth century representation of innovation had a more
positive value, and it owes to ‘usefulness’ (Godin, 2011).

To this end, innovation
had to move to another
social ‘arena’ and get disentangled from both religion and state affairs: innovation serves
goals intended to advance society (Godin, 2010). It is then in 1934, when an
exception was an Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter advanced a
theory in which innovation, and the social agents supporting it, were seen as
the driving force of economic development (Andersen, 2009; Fagerberg, 2003).
He distinct between invention and innovation that invention is an act of
intellectual creativity and “is without importance to economic
analysis”, while innovation is an economic decision (Schumpeter, 1939).
Though Schumpeter brought forward the concept of innovation in economic theory,
but he did not provided any sufficient analyses of the process of innovation
itself, e.g. he did not talk about how innovation came about in his work,
neither did he study the factors and conditions that lead to innovation (McCraw, 2007). The topic received more
attention around the time of the Second World War, when policy makers, first in
the US and then elsewhere, became interested in R&D and innovation as an important stimulus to
progress specifically in the military and then in the civil sector (Godin,
2006; Hounshell, 2000).

The new value of innovation
owes largely to technological invention and technology’s theorists (Thomson;
2009). Technology was increasingly
reputed to be a factor of social and economic ‘progress’ and many started using
innovation to talk about ‘social change’ and ‘economic development’ (Yamamoto,
2009). By the end of the twentieth century, innovation was mostly thought of as
‘technological innovation’ (Godin, 2008), and several traditions of research
had developed on studying technological innovation, government policies on
technological innovation have emerged and firms were regularly invited to measure
how and why they innovate (Khilji et al., 2006; Whitehead, 2016).

Definition: In the last three decades scholars and researchers including
sociologist, economists, organizational behaviorists, and management scientists
have wrote on different dynamics of innovation in the context of their
respective fields, yet there is no precise definition for it (Fyvie & Ager,
1999). However, there is a consensus in literature (Gower & Amar, 2014;
Inventium, 2015) at innovation, in any setup, does not progresses in a
structured manner, rather it carries a dynamic and impulsive nature.

Also, the way an industry or
an organization adopts innovation is usually dependent on its environment,
culture, and its mission; along with its capabilities and resource utilization
skills (Gower & Amar, 2014). Moreover, most of the research on “innovation”
has been conducted in the private sector with a main focus on industrial and
commercial organizations for manufacturing and products innovation (Whitehead,
2016). It takes many forms and can be understood as a process, an output or as
a solution to a social problem. It can be both incremental and disruptive. In the
table below, definitions of innovation from different renowned sources are
mentioned to help in extracting a working definition of innovation.