Novelty Vs. Innovation

Is your Idea Novel or Innovative?

Entrepreneurship: You have an idea, you develop it, build your Pitch deck, garner support, and monetize your product. What comes next? Success or failure… While many factors contribute to that final outcome, determining whether you have an idea that is novel or innovative helps you recognize how your scaling opportunity will stack up, who your target market is, as well as how relevant your product may be five or even ten years down the road. So ask yourself: Are you promoting a product that is novel or innovative?

What’s the Difference?

Let me preface this by saying there is nothing wrong with what is novel. In fact, it holds an esteemed place in the business market. But it should NOT be confused for innovation. What is novel provides the benefit of ‘newness’ but will rarely outlast the consumers’ want for the next ‘expensive diversion’. Novelty is great, like the smell of a new car or the glistening screen of a new phone. But, as time wears on, the excitement fades and the phone screen is cracked maybe one too many times, leaving consumers ready to purchase whatever minor feature will be introduced next. Novelty fuels market competitiveness in feature differentiation and pricing strategies but lacks the groundbreaking ingenuity which characterizes innovative design.

Innovation, on the other hand, establishes change. Changing fundamental design, changing expectations, and occasionally even “changing the game”. Whether this change is incremental or disruptively sudden, it is of the utmost importance that it is repeatable. Companies built on innovative concepts that can be replicated are able to routinely retain prominence atop the hierarchy of success. This is not to say, however, that these concepts need to be complicated. Even the most simple ideas can prove to be innovative once the service is launched. Consider Uber: by solely cutting out the middleman of a taxi service by implementing technology, it innovatively changed the market landscape for getting from point A to B. Consequently, Uber raked in $2.6 billion in revenue the first quarter of 2018. Innovation, however obscure, is the catalyst for radical change in entrepreneurship.

Why don’t more startups incorporate innovation into their product design?

Because innovation takes time and, as the timeless phrase goes, “time is money”. An entrepreneur cannot wake up one morning and decide to be innovative. There is hard work and effort that goes into pouring over consumer responses to the product, and altering it accordingly, before an innovative design begins to take shape. Furthermore, innovation should never be imitative but rather unprecedentedly originative in aspiration and intention. Imitation is the grim reaper of innovation unless executed properly. It’s a fine line between following an innovative model and merely replicating outdated innovation that will be obsolete before you even make your first dollar of profit.

Many companies may promote innovation as a founding principle of their business but fail to recognize how price increase, ‘newness’, and a recurrent cycle of minor differentiation are not all that is necessary to be deemed an ‘innovative business’. There is a misconception that this type of innovation SHOULD be a part of any business, but this is more aptly stated in saying it COULD be incorporated into your start-up. A company’s approach to how to include innovation should be influenced based on the goals of the organization, the target market, and the product/service itself and the need it is satisfying.

Why should YOU care?

In the startup entrepreneurial world: every product you develop, each service you conceptualize, and even anything you’ve thought of is NEW and that’s great! Now comes the time to distinguish whether your idea is novel or innovative so you can move forward with the right focus and approach. Whether in small quantities or in a complete and utter deluge, let innovation be a part of your business model so you aren’t just changing prices, you’re changing the world.

“Innovation is change that unlocks new value.” - Jamie Notter

-Joe Torkelson