August 19, 2018

Innovation, Good or Bad?

About innovation and what it means to be innovative

By: Brooke C., Director Program Management

You have definitely heard the word innovation before. You’ve likely heard it countless times in the modern workplace.  Innovation can be used as a noun (innovation), adjective (innovative) and a verb (innovating). Combining it with other words in a sentence makes it sound exciting. It has also become an overused buzzword, usually paired with something new in technology.

All of the excitement around the term innovation got me thinking. What is innovation? What does it mean to be innovative?

Defining Innovation

 I began to look for a definition of the term innovation. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines innovation as 1) “The introduction of something new” and 2) ”a new idea, method or device”. This definition only made me want to ask more questions. Can any new idea be considered innovation? What if it’s a truly terrible idea? I had always thought that for something to be innovative it had to solve a problem, mitigate a need, simplify a process or identify and corner a new market opportunity.

Was I right? Or were the folks at Merriam-Webster right? Maybe we both were right right?

Asking Experts


One benefit of working at an education technology company is that I am surrounded by exceptionally intelligent people. I decided to pool brain power to see what others thought. I found the answers to the following questions to be both interesting and empowering.


What is innovation?

“Innovation is the ability to change the course of the future. Being able to create something no one else can see or understand yet.”

– Alina A., VP of Technical Operations and Chief of Staff Cengage

Innovation is creating something new out of parts you already have. This could be constructing things in a different way, orchestrating with a new style, or celebrating the synthesis of something completely new after many iterations.”

–Chris M., Application Performance Manager Cengage

Innovation is creating new solutions to existing problems or seeing existing problems in new ways.”

–Ryan S., Content Engineering Manager Cengage

Innovation is often thought of as the creation of something new, and that’s certainly true. But I feel that today, innovation is more about enhancement, improvement, refinement–measurable adjustments to advance quality or usability that compounds over generations until the end result (if there ever is one) is something almost elemental to daily life. Smart phones, anyone?

–Josh E., Web Content Editor Cengage


What does it mean to be innovative?

To be Innovative is to be perpetually curious and rebellious to status quo, be fearless and feel limitless.”

–Alina A., VP of Technical Operations and Chief of Staff Cengage

To be innovative is to proactively look for ways to improve processes or products, to think outside the box, and be willing to take risks even though the end result may not be obvious. It also means being passionate about creating the best possible product or service.”

–Damayanti C., Associate Web Content Editor Cengage

To be innovative involves taking risks, trying new things, failing several times, and then trying again.  Fixing something that is broken is problem solving.  Creating something new is invention.”

– Chris M., Application Performance Manager Cengage


How does an organization become a leader in innovation?


 An organization has a better chance to be a leader in innovation if it welcomes failure. To innovate, you need a safe environment to experiment. Some experiments work and some don’t. Those that don’t, get us closer to the ones that do. Seeing each failure as a win that you learn from is the kind of mindset that allows organizations to be leaders in innovation.”

–Luba S., Director of Agile Transformation Cengage

 To become a leader in innovation, organizations need to collaborate. Working with colleagues across the organization, bringing people together, breaking down barriers for collaboration so that the exchange of ideas becomes second nature for the organization, not a bureaucratic exercise.”

– Milica G., Associate Technical Project Manager Cengage

I think it requires empowering people in all roles to make decisions. It’s very rare that a large group of people who feel engaged and empowered cannot come up with a new, better way of doing something. So putting some decision-making power into the hands of everyone in the organization opens up the ability and desire to innovate.”

– Ryan S., Content Engineering Manager Cengage

By allowing and encouraging employees to set aside time to innovate and collaborate on new ways to achieve results. By rewarding new ideas and innovations. And by making innovation a part of the culture of an organization.”

–Damayanti C., Associate Web Content Editor Cengage


Is innovation good or is it bad?

As a concept, innovation is great. What should be innovated upon and why, to what end, at the cost of what, etc.–I think those questions can determine whether innovating is a good or a bad thing.”

–Josh E., Web Content Editor Cengage

Innovation is neither good or bar. It propels the future and makes the future our reality.

–Alina A., VP of Technical Operations and Chief of Staff Cengage

That depends. Innovation is good or bad in the same way that “newness” is good or bad. Innovation can improve people’s lives if it can break people out of harmful or inefficient ruts. It can also get in people’s way if it solves a problem that isn’t really a problem, or introduces unnecessary complexity just for the sake of something new and shiny.”

–Ryan S., Content Engineering Manager Cengage



Did I find the meaning of innovation? I believe I did. Through the collaboration of my Cengage peers I was able to put together what I believe is the meaning of innovation, especially innovation here at Cengage.


Innovation is the ability to change the course of the future. It’s creating, enhancing, improving and refining something new to solve existing problems. Innovation is “doing new things”. To be innovative one must be perpetually curious and rebellious towards the status quo. They must take risks and try new things. They must be passionate, determined and unafraid of failure.

For an organization to become a leader in innovation it needs to foster collaboration and empower people in all roles to institute change, take risks and think outside the box. They need to welcome failure and establish safe environments in which employees can experiment.  Finally, innovation is neither good nor bad, however,  it is always new. When done correctly it has the power to impact, improve and change the way we live, work and interact. Every company should aspire to be a leader in innovation.