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    The Difference Between ‘Invention’ and ‘Innovation’

    by Tom Grasty
    March 29, 2012

    Two and a half years ago, I co-founded Stroome, a collaborative online video editing and publishing platform and 2010 Knight News Challenge winner.

    From its inception, the site received a tremendous amount of attention. The New School, USC Annenberg, the Online News Association and, ultimately, the Knight Foundation all saw something interesting in what we were doing. We won awards; we were invited to present at conferences; we were written about in the trades and featured in over 150 blogs. Yet despite all the accolades, not once did the word “invention” creep in. “Innovation,” it turns out, was the word on everyone’s lips.

    Like so many up-and-coming entrepreneurs, I was under the impression that invention and innovation were one and the same. They aren’t. And, as I have discovered, the distinction is an important one.

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    Recently, I was asked by Jason Nazar, founder of Docstoc and a big supporter of the L.A. entrepreneurial community, if I would help define the difference between the two. A short, 3-minute video response can be found at the bottom of this post, but I thought I’d share some key takeaways with you here:

    INVENTION VS. INNOVATION: THE DIFFERENCE

    In its purest sense, “invention“ can be defined as the creation of a product or introduction of a process for the first time. “Innovation,” on the other hand, occurs if someone improves on or makes a significant contribution to an existing product, process or service.

    Consider the microprocessor. Someone invented the microprocessor. But by itself, the microprocessor was nothing more than another piece on the circuit board. It’s what was done with that piece — the hundreds of thousands of products, processes and services that evolved from the invention of the microprocessor — that required innovation.

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    STEVE JOBS: THE POSTER BOY OF INNOVATION

    If ever there were a poster child for innovation it would be former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. And when people talk about innovation, Jobs’ iPod is cited as an example of innovation at its best.

    i-9e85b0c317b035f9b922cb3ece657946-steve jobs iphone4.jpg

    But let’s take a step back for a minute. The iPod wasn’t the first portable music device (Sony popularized the “music anywhere, anytime” concept 22 years earlier with the Walkman); the iPod wasn’t the first device that put hundreds of songs in your pocket (dozens of manufacturers had MP3 devices on the market when the iPod was released in 2001); and Apple was actually late to the party when it came to providing an online music-sharing platform. (Napster, Grokster and Kazaa all preceded iTunes.)

    So, given those sobering facts, is the iPod’s distinction as a defining example of innovation warranted? Absolutely.

    What made the iPod and the music ecosystem it engendered innovative wasn’t that it was the first portable music device. It wasn’t that it was the first MP3 player. And it wasn’t that it was the first company to make thousands of songs immediately available to millions of users. What made Apple innovative was that it combined all of these elements — design, ergonomics and ease of use — in a single device, and then tied it directly into a platform that effortlessly kept that device updated with music.

    Apple invented nothing. Its innovation was creating an easy-to-use ecosystem that unified music discovery, delivery and device. And, in the process, they revolutionized the music industry.

    IBM: INNOVATION’S UGLY STEPCHILD

    Admittedly, when it comes to corporate culture, Apple and IBM are worlds apart. But Apple and IBM aren’t really as different as innovation’s poster boy would have had us believe.

    Truth is if it hadn’t been for one of IBM’s greatest innovations — the personal computer — there would have been no Apple. Jobs owes a lot to the introduction of the PC. And IBM was the company behind it.

    Ironically, the IBM PC didn’t contain any new inventions per se (see iPod example above). Under pressure to complete the project in less than 18 months, the team actually was under explicit instructions not to invent anything new. The goal of the first PC, code-named “Project Chess,” was to take off-the-shelf components and bring them together in a way that was user friendly, inexpensive, and powerful.

    And while the world’s first PC was an innovative product in the aggregate, the device they created — a portable device that put powerful computing in the hands of the people — was no less impactful than Henry Ford’s Model T, which reinvented the automobile industry by putting affordable transportation in the hands of the masses.

    INNOVATION ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH

    Given the choice to invent or innovate, most entrepreneurs would take the latter. Let’s face it, innovation is just sexier. Perhaps there are a few engineers at M.I.T. who can name the members of “Project Chess.” Virtually everyone on the planet knows who Steve Jobs is.

    But innovation alone isn’t enough. Too often, companies focus on a technology instead of the customer’s problem. But in order to truly turn a great idea into a world-changing innovation, other factors must be taken into account.

    According to Venkatakrishnan Balasubramanian, a research analyst with Infosys Labs, the key to ensuring that innovation is successful is aligning your idea with the strategic objectives and business models of your organization.

    In a recent article that appeared in Innovation Management, he offered five considerations:

    1. Competitive advantage: Your innovation should provide a unique competitive position for the enterprise in the marketplace;
    2. Business alignment: The differentiating factors of your innovation should be conceptualized around the key strategic focus of the enterprise and its goals;
    3. Customers: Knowing the customers who will benefit from your innovation is paramount;
    4. Execution: Identifying resources, processes, risks, partners and suppliers and the ecosystem in the market for succeeding in the innovation is equally important;
    5. Business value: Assessing the value (monetary, market size, etc.) of the innovation and how the idea will bring that value into the organization is a critical underlying factor in selecting which idea to pursue.

    Said another way, smart innovators frame their ideas to stress the ways in which a new concept is compatible with the existing market landscape, and their company’s place in that marketplace.

    This adherence to the “status quo” may sound completely antithetical to the concept of innovation. But an idea that requires too much change in an organization, or too much disruption to the marketplace, may never see the light of day.

    A FINAL THOUGHT

    While they tend to be lumped together, “invention” and “innovation” are not the same thing. There are distinctions between them, and those distinctions are important.

    So how do you know if you are inventing or innovating? Consider this analogy:

    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.

    Entrepreneurs don’t stop at the water’s edge. They watch the ripples and spot the next big wave before it happens. And it’s the act of anticipating and riding that “next big wave” that drives the innovative nature in every entrepreneur.

    This article is the seventh of 10 video segments in which digital entrepreneur Tom Grasty talks about his experience building an Internet startup, and is part of a larger initiative sponsored by docstoc.videos, which features advice from small business owners who offer their views on how to launch a new business or grow your existing one altogether.

    Tagged: apple collaboration editing entrepreneurship ibm innovation invention ipod jason nazar knight news challenge online video participatory media pc steve jobs stroome
    • Technology Submission – Novel
      Rotary-Turbo-InFlow Tech – Featured Development

      GEARTURBINE PROJECT
      Atypical InFlow Thermodynamic
      Technology Proposal Submission
      Novel Fueled Motor Engine Type

      *State of the art Innovative concept Top system Higher efficient percent.
      Have similar system of the Aeolipile Heron Steam device from Alexandria 10-70
      AD.

      YouTube; * Atypical New • GEARTURBINE / Retrodynamic = DextroRPM VS LevoInFlow + Ying Yang Thrust Way Type – Non Waste Looses

      *8-X/Y Thermodynamic CYCLE – Way Steps:
      1)1-Compression / bigger
      2)2-Turbo 1 cold
      3)2-Turbo 2 cold
      4)2-Combustion – circular motion flames / opposites
      5)2-Thrust – single turbo & planetary gears / ying yang
      6)2-Turbo 2 hot
      7)2-Turbo 1 hot
      8)1-Turbine / bigger

      -New Form-Function Motor-Engine Device. Next Step, Epic Design Change, Broken-Seal Revelation. -Desirable Power-Plant Innovation.

      -With Retrodynamic Dextrogiro vs. Levogiro Phenomenon Effect. / Rotor-RPM VS InFlow / front to front; “Collision-Interaction Type” – inflow vs.
      blades-gear-move. Technical unique dynamic innovative motion mode.
      [Retrodynamic Reaction = When the inflow have more velocity the rotor have more RPM Acceleration, with high (XY Position) Momentum] Which the internal flow (and rotor) duplicate its speed, when activated being in a rotor (and inflow) with [inverse] opposite Turns. A very strong Novel concept of torque power thrust.

      -Non-waste parasitic looses system for cooling, lubrication &
      combustion.

      -Shape-Mass + Rotary-Motion = Inertia-Dynamic / Form-Function Wide [Flat] Cylindrical shape + positive dynamic rotary mass = continue Inertia kinetic positive tendency motion. Like a Flywheel.

      -Combustion 2Two continue circular [Rockets] flames. [ying yang] opposite to the other. – With 2TWO very long distance INFLOW [inside propulsion] CONDUITS. -4 TURBOS Rotary Total Thrust-Power Regeneration Power System. -Mechanical direct 2two [Small] Planetary Gears at polar position. -Like the Ying Yang Symbol/Concept. -Wide out the Rotor circumference were have much more lever HIGH Torque] POWER THRUST. -Military benefits; No blade erosion by sand & very low heat target signature profile. -3 points of power thrust; 1-flow way, 2-gear, 3-turbine. *Patent; Dic. 1991 IMPI Mexico #197187 All Rights Reserved. Carlos Barrera.

    • mark reyland

      I would submit that in their most primal form –
      Innovation is the presentation of a hypothesis and inventing is the act of
      proving it.

      Mark Reyland, Executive Director
      The United Inventors Association of America

      • jack fujieda

        Mark,
        I agree.Innovation comes after Invention.Thus so does not need to justify or proof of its rightness and newness which had been proved already but no one yet proved how to use that invention is best against its competitors. Thus ” Customer Centric Relationship Management” is needed as the driver for the innovation success .
        . Jack fujieda, Japan Representative Chairman of The open Group and CRM Association, CEO of ReGIS Inc.,

    • Brady Mick

      This definition difference creates a hierarchy that is limited to the economics of products. As Tom is a successful entrepreneur, this attitude makes sense; but there are many additional and wonderful levels of depth in the distinction of innovation and invention.
      I recommend filtering the definition through a lens where economics are removed, and then the meaning, purpose and behaviors of the two become much more valuable. This seems closer to the innovation that business is searching for, and can help prevent the word “innovation” from becoming a catch phrase like “collaboration” has become.

      Brady Mick
      Workplace Strategist, Architect – Cincinnati

    • karthikeyan

      may be this helps ,

      “”
      What is your own definition of the difference between invention and innovation?
      (max 5 words!)

      a.

      .1……..2………..3………4………….5…….
      All Inventions don’t become Innovations.

      b.

      Invention consumes, innovation produces capital.

      c.

      Innovation applies invention on purpose

      and a lot more …>>…..

      “”

      …more …..>>….http://linkd.in/1aI6rxX

      .-

    • cheese

      I agree

    • cheese

      Smurf berries

    • Very Good many heiraches are great

    • Dick Berries

    • I’m cool

      hi guys

      • I’m cool

        ur stupid check ur privilige

    • Anthony J. Pennings

      I’m not the biggest Apple fan, but I think you might want to the check the wording on your story of who invented the PC. After the Altair, you got to hand it to Apple. The IBM PC was “innovative” yes, but purely an attempt to react to the Apple II’s success, especially after VisiCalc became available.

    • Anthony J. Pennings

      I’m not the biggest Apple fan, but I think you might want to the check the wording on your story of who invented the PC. After the Altair, you got to hand it to Apple. The IBM PC was “innovative” yes, but purely an attempt to react to the Apple II’s success, especially after VisiCalc became available.

    • And what is this kind a stuff, can you make difference; Technology Submission – State of the Art – Novel InFlow Tech – Featured Project Development; |/ ·1; Rotary-Turbo-InFlow Tech / – GEARTURBINE PROJECT Have the similar basic system of the Aeolipilie Heron Steam Turbine device from Alexandria 10-70 AD * With Retrodynamic = DextroRPM VS LevoInFlow + Ying Yang Way Power Type – Non Waste Looses *8X/Y Thermodynamic CYCLE Way Steps. 4 Turbos, Higher efficient percent. No blade erosion by sand & very low heat target signature Pat:197187IMPI MX Dic1991 Atypical Motor Engine Type. |/·2; Imploturbocompressor; One Moving Part System Excellence Design – The InFlow Interaction comes from Macro-Flow and goes to Micro-Flow by Implossion – Only One Compression Step; Inflow, Compression and outflow at one simple circular dynamic motion / New Concept. To see a Imploturbocompressor animation, is possible on a simple way, just to check an Hurricane Satellite view, and is the same implo inflow way nature.

      *State of the Art, Novel Technology, Featured Project Development / Space, Satellite and Habitat, Power-Plant, Generator, Self-Feed Unit; H2O=>HHO=>H2O=>HHO=>Etc… *4 Systems All in One Unit, One By One, Plus Four-4 Projects added One to Other; *·1-Gearturbine, ·2-Imploturbocompressor, ·3-Dynamic Generator, ·4-Electrolysis System:

      ·1-GEARTURBINE; Rotary-Turbo-InFlow Tech,Have the similar basic system of the Aeolipilie Heron Steam Turbine device from Alexandria 10-70 AD * With Retrodynamic = DextroRPM VS LevoInFlow + Ying Yang Way Power Type – Non Waste Looses *8X/Y Thermodynamic CYCLE Way Steps. 4 Turbos, Higher efficient percent. No blade erosion by sand & very low heat target signature Pat:197187IMPI MX Dic1991 Atypical Motor Engine Type.

      ·2-IMPLOTURBOCOMPRESSOR; One Moving Part System Excellence Design – The InFlow Interaction comes from Macro-Flow and goes to Micro-Flow by Implossion – Only One Compression Step; Inflow, Compression and outflow at one simple circular dynamic motion / New Concept. To see a Imploturbocompressor animation, is possible on a simple way, just to check an Hurricane Satellite view, and is the same implo inflow way nature.

      *Note;Plus-this-Two Projects to complete all the System Work;

      -Self-Feed Unit Space Power-Plant-H2O=>HHO:

      ·3-Dynamic Generator/New Kind.

      ·4-Electrolysis System/BioDesign.

      *(3&4-Hide-Cards-on-the-Hand).

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