Innovation: How do Top Businesses Define It?

Innovation. Defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a new idea, device, or method” or “the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods,” the term has become a mantra of business leaders. But given its broad definition, the word innovation is now teetering on the buzzword ledge, says MBA@UNC Lead Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship Arvind Malhotra. According to him, “Innovation is a new offering or business model that enables a company to gain a significant competitive advantage —thereby generating abnormal profits and stakeholder value over the long run.” Innovation was once a unique descriptor, but with so many businesses these days claiming they are innovating, it is difficult to tell whom the true innovators are.

For many companies innovation does still stand as a notable characterization. These businesses are defining what innovation means for their venture to ensure that the term holds value and does not become a passé buzzword. To learn what creative and distinguished definitions ventures spanning a variety of industries have devised, MBA@UNC asked 20 businesses named among the world’s most innovative companies by Forbes and Fast Company, “How do you define innovation?” 

Innovation is a new offering of business model that enables a company to gain a significant competitive advantage--thereby generating abnormal profits and stakeholder value over the long run.  Arvind Malhotra

Innovation is the output of a collaborative team culture that is rooted in trust and the scientific method. Sarah Gavin

Innovation means constantly striving in every area of your business - the way you do things, the way your product works and feels, the way you interact with your customers. Sean Duffy

You sense innovation everywhere in the wework world: our members are constantly embracing possibilities, evaluating what's not working and why, and then collaborating to create something new - something better. Carl Pierre

Innovation is the deviation from, and improvement upon, the status quo. Not for the sake of change, but to make things better. Boden Westover

Innovation is something new that creates a positive impact on society. Innovation and invention often get conflated. Invention is about coming up with an idea, innovation is about creating impact with the idea. Jon Pittman

Innovation means not being afraid to question - and throw out - the way things are currently done. Abby Lunardini

The most innovative companies in the world are the ones who know how to successfully tap the creativity, energy and power of their people. Jim Whitehurst

At L'Oreal, innovation means providing a disruptive consumer experience to transform the way all people, worldwide, experience the beauty industry. Guive Balooch

Inovation is trying to figure out where the world is going and how you can get there. Not letting the skeptic win in the process is pretty important. Chip Paucek

Innovation is the ability to discover, develop and commercialize innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need. Michelle Rest

Innovation is to love what you do so much, that you are not afraid to change it because you know that you'll keep falling in love with it more every time. Nicola Farinetti

Innovation is looking at an old problem with fresh perspective and then working backward to solve it. Taro Fakuyama

Innovation at Soundcloud means developing and refining the platform and tools to connect every human online through the power of music and audio. Alex Liung

Innovation is discovering and developing transformative medicines - medicines that target the underlying causes of disease, not just the symptoms. Jeffrey Lieden, M.D. Ph.D

Innovation comes from fixing a broken paradigm. Question the accepted standard then make that experience better in order to pass the value along to your customer. Bayard Winthrop

Innovation isn't magic or inspiration - it's hard work. It requires relentless reinvention that challenges the status quo and outthinks the competition to deliver meaningful change. Greg Merritt

At Versisk, we define innovation as visualizing the future and being thought leaders in order to achieve a better tomorrow. Christopher Perini

At Toyota, we define innovation as applying new ideas, processes an technologies to meet and solve existing business challenges, but also to create new opportunities. Ned Curic

Innovation is creating enriching, instantly gratifying consumer experiences for the customer using interactive digital technology. Adam Crystal