Well, aren’t they basically the same? No.
As my friend, and contributing author Ted Whetstone, said in THE Book on…Business From A to Z; The 260 Answers You Need to Know, “…While invention stresses something new or discovered (like the idea of the first light bulb), innovation tends to build off that discovery, bring it to market, and give it value, because it means something to the world.”
So does this mean that an invention may, or may not, have commercial value while an innovation does? Absolutely. If an invention can be defined as the creation of a product or introduction of a process for the first time, innovation is when someone improves on or makes a significant contribution to an existing product, process or service. Clear?
Entrepreneur Tom Grasty puts it in a different context: “If invention is a pebble tossed in the pond, innovation is the rippling effect that pebble causes. Someone has to toss the pebble. That’s the inventor. Someone has to recognize the ripple will eventually become a wave. That’s the entrepreneur.”
So entrepreneurs take inventions to the next level. Commercialize (or in today’s terms monetize it). An entrepreneur turns an idea into a business. So why don’t all entrepreneurs do this effectively? One reason is lack of collaboration. Of proximity. We see some common behaviors and environments in organizations like Google, Apple, Tesla & Facebook. These companies have created a corporate culture that encourages group-think.
“…innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem.” –Steve Jobs.
“It’s best to work in small teams, keep them crowded…foster serendipitous connections.” –Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg; How Google Works
But what about the non-mega firms? Can you & I succeed at innovation? According to Venkatakrishnan Balasubramanian in his article titled: Five Dimensions to Conceptualize Your Idea to Make it a Successful Innovation you need 5 ingredients:
1. Competitive advantage: Your innovation should provide a unique competitive position for you in the marketplace.
2. Business alignment: Your innovation should be able to be differentiated by & revolve around the key strategic focus of your firm and its goals.
3. Customers: Identifying which customers will benefit from your innovation is critical.
4. Execution: Recognizing resources, processes, risks, partners, suppliers and the way the market works are all required for succeeding.
5. Business value: Assessing the value (monetary, market size, etc.) of the innovation and how to bring that value into the firm is a serious variable in deciding to move forward.
If we are going to pursue innovation as both a differentiator & revenue source, it is work & there is risk. But isn’t that what entrepreneurial business is all about? Do it & celebrate your success. This is not a new idea by the way. Isaac Asimov (the science fiction writer) wrote, in 1959, … “cerebration sessions [should be held] to promote innovation beyond invention.”
Tell me what you are thinking about these tips at Build It Backwards(SM)