What innovation means to us is best represented by what we have written in the judges' white paper, "PACE: What We've Learned So Far" (the paper is available at www.autonews.com/files/PACEJudges.pdf). Basically, we have four questions that we ask of any innovation.
First: "Have we really not seen it before?" Frequently, a company invents something that it regards as an innovation or an innovative practice. But it turns out that someone else in some other place in some other time has already done pretty much the same thing.
The second thing we ask is: "Is it adopted or in use? Has it been contracted for and sold?" Sometimes an innovation or an innovative way of doing things is presented, but if no customer has bought it, how do we know how much real world practicality it will have? What we don't want to be dealing with is something that is a good idea that hasn't made its way in the commercial world. We want to see proof that a customer has integrated the innovation into what it does.
The third is: "Does it change the company's business for the better?" When you have an innovation, you're going into a new business, which means you may be going out of an old business. The question is, how do you manage the change from here to there? Frequently, an innovation does give the company a new and more successful direction; there is also the possibility that in giving a new business to manage, it may create some problems. Or it may turn out that you made the wrong bet.
And fourth: "Does it really change the rules of the game?'' A real innovation is something that the competition will have to respond to in some way because you've provided a totally new way of looking at or doing things.