The term innovation refers to a new way of doing something. It may mean incremental, radical, and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations. A distinction is typically made between Invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovation) . In other words, when an invention is applied to solve a problem or to do something completely differently than it has been done before, innovation occurs.
We are all attracted to what is new, different, possible - far more engaging than slogging through the familiar, mundane, routine. Scholars are rewarded for being among the first wave of creative thinkers to explore new ideas. Businesses strive to be first to market. Of course, there is a huge difference between exploring new possibilities and defining new constructs, and figuring out how to take what is learned from these exploration to establish frameworks for improving practice.
For so many of today's enterprises and institutions, the current opportunities for achieving excellence comes from not just in the creation of new knowledge but rather in figuring out the healthy balance between new knowledge that bring innovations to institutions and enterprises, and scalable, sustainable solutions that realize the benefits of new knowledge. That means coming up with a framework that gives innovators enough time and opportunity to test the application of an innovation in a number of practice settings. It means giving implementers a long enough runway for applying the lessons learned from innovators at the point where empirical evidence indicates that the new ideas are likely to have the greatest impact.
Finding common ground between innovators and implementers can be a bit dodgy. The diagram above, which is a Gartner Hype Cycle meets Everett Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation mash-up, shows two distinct kinds of participants in the innovation-to-adoption process. The curve shown on the left, above, shows innovator interest, taking us from the first moments of awareness to the peak of interest known in Gartner circles as the Peak of Inflated Expectations . It is followed by a deep fall-off in interest, the so-called Trough of Disappointment once the new innovation starts to lose some of its glow, or not live up to expectations, or some combination of both. The Rogers Diffusion of Innovation curve, appearing on the right, is a standard distribution curve that depicts different stages of technology adoption, with the Early Adopters showing up just about the time that innovations start their move toward the Plateau of Productivity with Early and Late Majority adopters coming on board long after the innovations move through their distruptive stage.
Innovators simply can't imagine that people responsible for doing large-scale technology or training roll-outs, or running a profitable business, or managing a high performing team, don't want to try a bunch of new ideas without knowing exactly what the benefits of the changes will be. Immediately. Implementers can't figure out why it is so hard for innovators to stay focused on finding a path that ensures the smooth transition from the old way of doing things to the new. Implementating a innovation into practice requires deliberation, with evaluation based on evidence. The initial burst of interest over a new innovation may attract attention and gain early momentum. Some innovations simply have have too much associated overhead, or may not be able to scale to scale, or may be too hard for mere mortals to use.
What's clear is that for Adoption to hit the mainstream it take both - the innovators on the front lines, going forth where nobody has gone before, and the implementers in the back office and IT center, making sure that nobody gets left behind.