Valuable Novelty: A Proposed General Theory of Innovation and Innovativeness

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A General Theory Of Innovation and innovativeness

By Friend of the ILF Dennis A. Stauffer,

We are delighted to share with you that Dennis, longstanding friend of the ILF, has succeeded in placing not one but three articles in the International Journal of Innovation Science. Anyone familiar with the world of academia will know that this is quite an achievement to get not one but three through the peer review process, and get them into a journal that publishes only 4-5 articles in each of its 4 annual issues.

So what are these articles about? The first lays out the theoretical foundations and offers a general theory of innovation and innovativeness. The second, “Evaluating Mindset as a Means of Measuring Innovativeness,” explains the creation of an evaluation instrument, the Innovator Mindset that applies this theory. The third article, “Innovativeness as a Predictor of Entrepreneurial Value Creation,” uses that instrument to test the theory’s predictive capabilities.

Here the abstract from article number 1:

“A general theory of innovation is proposed based on an analysis of the common characteristics and dynamics of two innovation archetypes: natural selection and the scientific method, along with innovation in other contexts such as business and technology. This Valuable Novelty Theory posits a probabilistic pattern of innovation called the Innovation Cycle and a complimentary pattern called the Status Quo Cycle. This approach is designed in part to enable the measurement and comparison of innovativeness across a variety of activities, disciplines and contexts. Two companion articles apply and test this theory.

This paper is one of three published in series, following a hypothetical deductive approach. This first article lays a theoretical foundation. The second article Evaluating Mindset as a Means of Measuring Innovativeness explains the creation of an evaluation instrument that applies this theory. A third article Innovativeness as a Predictor of Entrepreneurial Value Creation uses that instrument to test the theory’s predictive capabilities.”

To wet your appetite a little more, here an excerpt from the introduction. (Due to copyright restrictions the article is not freely available; it can be purchased from the journal’s website – or you might try Dennis directly ;-)).


This article proposes a theory to explain universal mechanisms that characterize innovation. That is, innovation not just as a business practice or an economic or social trend, but innovation as manifested in science, technology, nature, business, the arts, and society as a whole – innovation in the broadest sense as a phenomenon unto itself.

This model describes how specific mechanisms interact to foster innovation, forming an Innovation Cycle. I argue that this fundamental pattern is intrinsic to all types of innovation, providing insights into how innovation occurs, what conditions are required, and how to most effectively promote it.

Some of the concepts that comprise this theory have been explored previously. This contribution is about combining these concepts into a coherent framework and identifying salient characteristics that can be used to recognize, measure, compare and enhance the capacity to innovate.

Defining Innovation and Innovativeness

The theory I propose is itself a detailed definition of innovation. However, I begin with some minimalistic definitions of key terms. I define innovation as Valuable Novelty, and Innovativeness as the capacity to produce Valuable Novelty. For the sake of clarity, I need to also explain some related terms. My purpose is not to resolve the long-running debates about the meanings of these terms, but rather to simply make clear my usage.


In an effort to account for all ways that the term creativity is used in our intuitive sense of what it means, researchers have offered definitions that include things such as originality, usefulness, social acceptance, expert judgement, process, person, product, and varying combinations of these.

One broadly accepted definition among contemporary creativity researchers, often called the standard definition, is that:

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