Tag Archives: Timing

Innovation vs. Invention vs. Creativity

Innovation vs. Invention vs. Creativity

by Braden Kelley

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: Pexels

Innovation Audit from Braden Kelley

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Are You Innovating for the Past or the Future?

Are You Innovating for the Past or the Future?I had the opportunity to meet and chat with local ethnographic researcher Cynthia DuVal about the role of ethnographic research in the innovation process, and she shared an insight that I thought I would share with the rest of you.

She mentioned that it is important for a good ethnographer or researcher to consider the timeline of the development process when extracting insights. Why is this important?

Well, if you’ve got a 12-18 month product or service development process to go from insight to in-market, then you should be looking not to identify the insights that are most relevant today, BUT the insights that will be most relevant 12-18 months from now. If you can go from insight to in-market faster than that, that’s fantastic, but the point still holds.

If your research team takes all of the data they’ve gathered and extracts insights for today, then you are innovating for the past, and if they develop insights too far along the time continuum then you are innovating for the future. You can’t really innovate for the past (your offering won’t be innovative and will be beaten easily by competitors). If you innovate for the future, then adoption will be slow until customers become ready. The trick is to task your insights team to provide guidance for the future present.

Innovating for Future Present

The ideal of course is to design a product based on customer insights appropriate to the time of the product launch to maximize the useful life of the customer insights.

The product or service are an expression of the customer insights, and it is the useful life of the insights that we are concerned with, not the useful life of the product or service (a post-purchase concept). When the insights reach their sell by date, sales will begin to tail off, and you better have another product or service ready to replace this one (based on fresh insights).

Now, extracting accurate customer insights for the present is difficult enough. Doing it for the future present is even harder. But, if your team starts out with that as its charter, they will likely rise to the challenge, for the most part.

FlexibilityBecause the team will likely only get the insights mostly right, it is important that your go-to-market processes include a great deal of modularity and flexibility. In the same way that product development processes have to design for certain components that are ‘likely’ to be available, but also have a backup design available that substitutes already released components–should the cutting edge components not be ready in time.

To innovate for the future present, you must maintain the flexibility to tweak branding and messaging (and even the product or service itself) should some of the forecasted customer insights prove to be inaccurate and require updates. It is also a good idea to evaluate, as you go, whether or not a fast follower version (e.g. iPhone OS v3.1) of the product, service, and/or branding or messaging will need to be prepared to address last minute customer insight discoveries that can’t be incorporated into the product or service or branding/messaging at launch.

So, will your team have the flexibility necessary to innovate for the future present, or will you find your team innovating for the past or the future?

Build a Common Language of Innovation on your team

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