In today’s global economy, to be successful one needs to either invent or innovate.
Invention is about creating something new while Innovation is a concept that uses an idea or a method that causes changes in behavior or interactions.
Companies often claim that they are leaders in Innovation by showing a few patents as evidence. Patents are evidence of invention. But it is not necessary that all these patents have been of ‘use’ to influence a product or an industry. Such patents are not innovating. If innovation refers the ‘use’ of a new method and qualifies the change in behavior, processes or the business then it’s innovating. Most Innovations are evolutionary changes to existing processes, uses or functions which are made better by an existing invention.
The best example is that of Apple’s iPhone, which created a revolutionary innovation from being a stagnant mobile phone to a redesigned user interface screen that accommodated media content, telecommunications, licensing, application development and unified all of them under one roof.
Many inventions are made for a purpose totally different from what it is actually used for. Like instance Alexander Graham Bell thought that the telephone would be used for listening and that Edison invented phonograph for taking dictation. That, people ended up using them, to talk to each other and to listen to music surprised the inventors.
To innovate is to take an existing concept and to make it better or to make a significant contribution to something that has already been invented. The best example to quote for innovation is the Steve Jobs iPod. Though the iPod was not the first portable music device or the first MP3 player, the innovation was the easy-to-use ecosystem that unified music and puts it in a single device and tied into a platform that updated music effortlessly.
To invent is to make or create something entirely new, something which was not existing at all or introducing a process for the first time.
Difference between Invention and Innovation
Take the case of the first Vacuum Cleaner which was invented by Murray Spengler, who is little known for his invention, thanks to W. H. Hoover, who marketed and sold them and he was the innovator of this ‘electric suction sweeper’
Similar is the case of modern telegraphy, where Samuel Morse invented the code and other inventions came from others. Morse spread the concept of linking people separated by distances and his combination of marketing and political skills made his name famous.
One such example is that of the inventor of sewing machine Elias Howe. But he was unable to sell his ideas despite travelling to England and finally, when he returned to the USA, he found that Issac Singer had stolen the patient and had built a successful business. Though Singer paid royalties to Howe, many associates the sewing machine with the innovator Singer and not Howe.
Though innovation is seen as a powerful way of securing competitive advantage, success is not always guaranteed.
Like for example, considering the case of The Motorola’s ambitious venture to offer mobile communications from literally anywhere on the planet- be it the Mount Everest or the South Pole was a huge draw. All networks were established to put 88 satellites into orbit at the cost of $7 billion. The dilemma was that, people realized that they did not make many calls from the South Pole or any remote islands and that their requirement was met with less expensive mobile networks. Also the Motorola handsets were big and clumsy due to complex electronics and their call charges were highly priced. When nothing worked, the company filed for bankruptcy but still their problems were far from over. The satellites put in the orbit cost $2m per month for maintenance. Since no other telecoms took interest to take advantage of these satellites, Motorola further put in $50m to bring them out of orbit and destroy them safely. This was also criticized by NASA for posing a nuclear threat.
So also the ‘Ford’ car was one such failure when it first launched in 1952. To make it road worthy, the production line had to spend twice the amount of the vehicle cost and when it did, the marketing campaign on a Live TV slot, the car failed to start. The consumer indifference to the design led the company to abandon the car.This concludes as to why Innovation cannot be a success at all times.
The Innovation should be with an objective to make it look different or its application is such that it is as good as a new Invention.