Many people indeed use the two terms “lean innovation” and “lean product development” as if they are the same thing. In fact, when you look at how they define the terms, they are the same thing – the use of innovation may be part of the company culture, for example (in my company, for example, people refer to the product development department as “innovation”). However, I did once hear a good distinction between the two:

  • Lean product development is used for applying lean onto the classical research & development (R&D) department: the organization where engineers create the knowledge required to develop products and realize product development and related processes.
  • Lean innovation is used for applying lean onto the value stream that is required to bring a product from idea to market. This does not only require the R&D department to join in, but as much roles like marketing, market intelligence, purchasing, engineering, etc.