Innovation vs. Invention vs. Creativity

Innovation vs Invention vs Creativity

There is so much talk about innovation these days, it’s hard to sometimes distinguish the signal from the noise.

In fact, the word innovation gets thrown around so much that it leaves people wondering:

What’s really innovative?

Well, most of the time that people talk about something being innovative, what they describe isn’t innovative, but instead inventive or creative. These three are all very different. Here is how I like to distinguish the differences between creativity, invention and innovation:

  1. Creativity – creates something interesting
  2. Invention – creates something useful
  3. Innovation – creates something so valuable that it is widely adopted, replacing the existing solution in a majority of appropriate use cases

Very few creative sparks result in an invention and very few inventions become innovations.

And the painful truth is that many great inventions take 20-30 years to be realized. Timing your investment is the key to whether you waste a big wad of cash, or still have it to spend when the optimal time to invest in a potential innovation comes.

If you look at most technology-based innovations, whether it’s the mp3 or the VCR, they were invented 20-30 years before they reached wide adoption in the marketplace, and for Gorilla Glass we’re talking more like 50 years.

To further emphasize the importance of timing…

Look at Webvan vs. Amazon Fresh

Look at Pets.com vs. Chewy.com (acquired by Petsmart)

Now these aren’t innovations, but you get my point. You have to know where you are on the commercialization timeline…

And most importantly, sometimes you have to look BACKWARDS before you look forwards, so you know where on the commercialization timeline you are.

If you’re working on a potential innovation now, are you sure it’s a potential innovation?

Are you sure now is the time to go big?

Read more about Premature Innovation

You might also enjoy Are You Innovating for the Past or the Future?

Image credit: blr.com

About Braden Kelley

Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker and workshop leader, helps companies build innovation cultures and infrastructures, and plan organizational changes that are more human and less overwhelming. He is the author of Charting Change from Palgrave Macmillan and Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden has been advising companies since 1996, while living and working in England, Germany, and the United States. Braden earned his MBA from top-rated London Business School. Follow him on Twitter and Linkedin.
This entry was posted in Creativity, Innovation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Innovation vs. Invention vs. Creativity

  1. AZFAR KAMAL says:

    Interesting though my definitions do not align well with yours – To me

    1. Creativity is spark of genius. God creating this world was creative. Picasso was creative, and so on.
    2. Invention is novel. Novelty is the key and not the usefulness. Many patents or inventions are novel, unique, non obvious, but not necessary useful.
    3. Innovation is a tweak, a morph, a change – and all for apparent usefulness and improvement. While cars may be the invention, different colors can be termed innovative.

  2. Henry Morgan says:

    I agree, it’s a strange beast – the window of opportunity.
    A very good example of innovation was a female inventor I saw on some YouTube channel the other day. She didn’t invent anything new, but preferred to look around for existing items that could be improved – so by your reckoning that would make her an innovator, which is a fair conclusion.
    She actually had her first ‘hit’ by redesigning those weighted bands gym-types use on the wrists and ankles. Her design was more comfortable than the original, could have its weight adjusted and were far easier to put on and remove.

    She saw herself as a ‘disruptor’ rather than an innovator, which I’d tend to agree with.

  3. admin says:

    Inventions create useful solutions (like the hundreds of mousetrap patents filed each year), while innovations create so much value the existing widely adopted solution is replaced on a wide scale.

    My preferred solution to adding resistance to my workout (basketball) is not ankle weights but the resistance tights created by http://www.physiclo.com that don’t put the stress on your knees that ankle weights do and don’t require me to do anything different. I was already wearing compression tights, and so now I just shimmy on the Physiclo tights they gave me instead and off I go.

    Braden (@innovate)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *