When people think about innovation, they tend to think about stuff. Bright, shiny, high-tech stuff that's patented, comes out of corporate research and development labs, and takes teams of engineers years of work and millions of dollars to develop.

We love shiny new things as much as anyone (see "The Outer Limits"). But at Inc., we're always as interested in the process as in the product, as drawn to the how as to the what. Innovation, to our thinking, is less about gadgets and devices than it is about coming up with new ways to capture ideas, vet them, and bring them to market; about tapping the creativity of employees, customers, partners, even competitors; and about developing systems to ensure constant, incremental improvement in whatever it is a company does.

The how of innovation: That's what you'll find in the pages that follow.