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Definition of Innovation

(noun) The improvement or redesign of something that already exists, typically referring to a good, service, or process.

Examples of Innovation

Types of Innovation

  • component innovation: Improving one part of a system.
  • financial innovation: Creating or modifying fiscal instruments.
  • product innovation: Creating or improving an existing product to sell.
  • process innovation: Making an existing product cheaper.
  • religious innovation: Changes in the practice of religious belief.

Innovation Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: in·no·va·tion

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /in-uh-vAY-shuhn/
  • British English – /in-uh-vAY-shuhn/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˌɪnəˈveɪʃən/
  • British English – /ɪnəʊˈveɪʃən/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: innovations
  • Innovation and invention are often used interchangeably, however they are different concepts. An innovation improves or uses something in a new way, but an invention is always something new.
    • An innovation is a change in something.
    • An innovations adds value to existing goods or services, an invention is unprecedented and novel.
    • An innovation transforms or updates, an invention creates or discovers.
  • Innovations typically confront customs and norms.
  • Typically, innovations cannot be patented but inventions can be patented.
  • Innovations are different from ideas in that innovations are operationalized and applied in the real world (Cels et al. 2012).
  • Sociologists are interested in the diffusion of innovation across societies, cultures, and nations. Everett M. Rogers (1931–2004) developed diffusion of innovations theory in Diffusion of Innovations (1962) and coined the term early adopter. Called an innovation wave, innovations move from their originating location which are typically highly populated urban areas to other areas. Businesses rely on innovation strategies to market their products and manipulate the innovation wave.
  • Discontinuous innovation is introducing an entirely new product to market, such as the original personal computers, and continuous innovation is improving existing products, such as new versions of software. The Internet is challenging traditional notions of innovation waves and the process of innovation.
  • Innovation occurs in all realms and sociologists have studied agricultural innovation, economic innovation, organizational innovation, and systems innovation among others.
  • Social acceptance is the process of learning about, accepting, and adapting to an innovation.
  • An (noun) innovator or (noun) innovationist (verb) innovates by (verb) innovating (adjective) innovational or (adjective) innovatory ideas, products, or methods that (adverb) innovatively exhibit (noun) innovativeness.

Related Quotation

Additional Information

Related Terms


Brym, Robert J., and John Lie. 2007. Sociology: Your Compass for a New World. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Cels, Sanderijn, Jorrit De Jong, and Frans Nauta. 2012. Agents of Change: Strategy and Tactics for Social Innovation. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Works Consulted

Ferrante, Joan. 2011a. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferrante, Joan. 2011b. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.

Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.

Ravelli, Bruce, and Michelle Webber. 2016. Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pearson.

Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Tischler, Henry L. 2011. Introduction to Sociology. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Innovation

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “innovation.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved February 27, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/innovation/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

innovation. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/innovation/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “innovation.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed February 27, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/innovation/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“innovation.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 27 Feb. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/innovation/>.