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?
You might also enjoy Are You Innovating for the Past or the Future?
image credit: blr.com
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Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, builds sustainable innovation cultures, and tools for creating successful change. He is the author of the five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire and the creator of the revolutionary new Change Planning Toolkit™. Follow him on Twitter (@innovate) and Linkedin.