Function: noun

Date: 15th century

1: the introduction of something new

2: a new idea, method, or device: novelty80

Describing something that has been subjected to a tweak as an innovation is an act of self-deception. It may add up to an important improvement or an enhancement and be extremely valuable. But it is not innovation. Grasping the significance of this point is of life-and-death importance for any organisation that is concerned about its future. Of course, you want to know why the insistence that innovation is different from other kinds of changes. You may already be getting irritated at what you see as inconsequential hair-splitting. Here is a simple parable that gets to the heart of what the fuss is all about.

Imagine you are sitting in front of two computer screens, each with an image of Picasso's 1913 cubist composition Man with a guitar. The two screens show the same picture. You look at them carefully and conclude at this stage that they are, indeed, identical. Then you are told that one is a faithful image of the original while the other is a faithful image of a copy of the same picture.

Armed with this knowledge, you are asked to look again. You start to scrutinise the two images more carefully for subtle variations in the proportions of the composition, the tone qualities of the colours and other technical painterly details. In the end, you convince ...

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