It’s difficult to think about RIT without associating it with innovation. Innovation is the school's go-to buzzword, and RIT’s not afraid to slap that label on anything that slightly resembles innovation.

To the employees of RIT, the word varies in meaning. Dr. Richard DeMartino, the director of the Simone Center, defines innovation as “both the creation of something new and the use of it.”

To Christine Corrado, the organizer for the Innovation Hall of Fame, innovation means “the coalescence between the perceived need and the unperceived need, and a novel approach to meeting that need.”

Richard Notargiacomo, the director for student innovation, provided the simplest definition of innovation: “creativity plus value.”

Of these three leaders in RIT’s innovation, DeMartino seemed most comfortable articulating RIT's innovation ideals, saying that RIT uses a similar meaning to his own.

He said that RIT leaves its definition vague to remain inclusive. According to him, each college and even each professional would define it as something different, so leaving the overall definition vague allows more freedom in what is called innovative and allows the inclusion of more definitions of the word.

On the subject of RIT’s wide use of the label, Notargiacomo said that RIT does this “in the spirit of innovation.” If something has the potential to be innovative, it should be labeled as such.

Despite the benefits of this inclusionary broadness in the description of innovation, there are issues with this approach. If the definition of a word is stretched too far and includes too many ideas and concepts, the definition and the word itself can lose meaning altogether.

Unfortunately, RIT’s definition and the “spirit of innovation” may have done just this.

According to many other definitions of innovation from experts outside of RIT, innovation must go further than having potential and must actually be implemented in some form.

Vijay Govindarajan of Harvard Business Review said that “Creativity is about coming up with the big idea. Innovation is about executing the idea – converting the idea into a successful business.”

In contrast to the more vague definitions at RIT, Business Insider contributor Drew Marshall wrote that innovation is measurable. “Innovation is about introducing change into relatively stable systems. It’s also concerned with the work required to make an idea viable.”

Furthermore, Theodore Levitt, an economist and professor at Harvard before his death in 2006, wrote: “What is often lacking is not creativity in the idea-creating sense but innovation in the action-producing sense, i.e. putting ideas to work.”

RIT is a well of creative ideas; we celebrate them every year at Imagine RIT. Not all of these ideas are innovative, however. Of the near limitless ideas that RIT students produce, only a few are realized. DeMartino said that of all the ideas and projects the Simone Center takes on, only three or four percent are taken into the real world. This low success rate is something to keep in mind.

Innovation takes work. It takes successes and failures, but that’s what makes it special. The reason innovation is such an important buzzword is because it is difficult to accomplish. Making a creative idea work in the real world is hard to do and should be recognized and praised.

RIT’s broad definition of the word may take away from the meaning of innovation; it can trivialize the hard work necessary to join creativity with the real world. Anyone can be innovative, but what separates the creative from the innovative is the ability to implement their creativity and bring about actual change.