Editor’s note: After a hiatus, the "Innovation Exchange” is back at Local Tech Wire. The Exchange is written by Noah Garrett, former director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association, a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, and now owner and operator of NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a Web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

By Noah Garrett, Innovation Exchange

CHARLESTON, S.C. – What does it mean to be innovative?

Innovation is everywhere – at least that’s what people say all the time. It just might be the most overused term in executive circles today. Shoot, we even chose to use it in naming this blog. Is that innovative? Dunno?

What IE has noticed over the years is that not everyone shares in the same definition of innovation. So, we talked with several leaders in various industries throughout the Triangle and country to help define innovation.

As you’ll see below, the responses are, well, innovative. And, we would love to see what you think.

“To be innovative, an entrepreneur needs not only to have a good idea, but also to come up with a solution to someone else’s problem. Innovation ultimately needs to have some kind of application in the marketplace, presumably to make a product or service faster, cheaper, or more readily accessible, so it will attract customers and – ideally! – revenue. Innovation starts by asking ‘how could this be better?’ followed by ‘what will it take to get there?’”

Joan Seifert Rose
President and CEO
Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED)

"To me, innovation is a marriage of the art and science of creation. As such, it can be equally gorgeous, murky, experimental, and challenging. And, like any marriage, the trick is to find the way to sustain and grow it successfully! Whether through discovery, convergence, translation, or application in a new context, innovation is the engine we’ll build the 21st century around – which means a lot of change for all of us."

Karl Rectanus
Leader, North Carolina STEM Community Collaborative

“Innovation can be seen as new applications for existing products or services or bringing new people into the fold to use existing products or services. In my view it is important to see all three aspects of innovation: people, product (service), and use.”

Ron Jebaily
Partner, Jebaily Law Firm

“True innovation is still invention. It’s still great minds creating things that can lead to commercial success or improve the human condition. What is different about invention today is that due to the advances in information and communications technology, great minds can connect and collaborate in real time. Invention, as a result, proceeds at a faster pace. More importantly, the time to mass distribution or mass adoption of invention has greatly compressed.”

Joe Freddoso
President and CEO MCNC

“Innovation is the convergence of visionary thinking, planning, and hard work. Tossing conventional rules aside, being bold and unafraid of venturing into unchartered waters, and yet being humble enough to respect technology and all its ever-evolving beauty, that is a true innovator.”

Rita Cosby
Emmy-Award Winning Journalist/Best-Selling Author

“Innovation is the creative approach to a problem or task, unencumbered by conventional thinking or traditional barriers.”

Brooks Raiford
President and CEO
North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA)

“In my mind, a valuable form of innovation is conceptualizing something familiar in a new way. As an illustration, for decades I have taken showers in bathtubs constrained by shower curtains whose straight rods created a narrow space. Now this space is more expansive because an innovator thought ‘outside the box’ to develop a curved shower rod.”

Dr. Chris Dede
Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard University

“Innovation means doing something differently, incremental, radical or revolutionary. With that, innovation is envisioning something new in one’s mind that doesn’t exist. Taking this vision to reality while some kick you in the teeth is one of the hardest things to do in a lifetime. Those that are hugely successful at pulling it off are labeled innovators. But, innovators are everyone that has an idea, and despite all odds, create something new – either products, goods, or services.”

Billy Glynn
Founder of Collective IQ
Author of Left Turn on Red and ranked one of the world’s top innovators by Information Week magazine