Though often used as synonyms for one another, invention and innovation are technically different. An invention occurs when you’re creating a completely new idea, while an innovation is improving upon an existing idea. Take transportation for example. When the first car was created, it was an invention, since there had never been a motorized way to get around before. Compare that to Uber, an innovation in transportation; disruptive as it may have been, the taxi and car service industry already existed before Uber’s arrival.
Why does the difference even matter?
The difference between invention and innovation matters for your organization because it impacts strategy. Here’s how:
Inventions, by definition, are greenfield opportunities; they create their markets and won’t have any competitors upon their introduction. If your organization is launching an invention your competitive strategy is centered on how you keep competitors from entering. Conversely, innovations will enter existing markets and may have direct or indirect competitors.
Your organization’s growth is largely influenced by whether its offerings are inventions or innovations. For example, if you start your organization’s life producing an invention, then your growth strategy becomes focused on how you can stay relevant by continuously innovating on the product and space you’ve created.
Intellectual property strategy
If your organization focuses on one tactic over the other, it poses a question on what types of IP should you invest in to protect your ideas? For example, if you’re working with an invention, it could be wise to protect it with patents to sustain competitive advantage. The same could hold true for innovations, but keeping the innovation unprotected could enhance collaborative innovation, similar to how Tesla is opening their patents to anyone in order to make the market better as a whole.
So which is better for your organization? Ultimately, invention and innovation influence one another and your product strategy should focus on incorporating both, depending on the needs of you customers.
To learn more about leveraging inventions and innovations at your scaling company, download this free ebook: 4 Ways Emerging Companies Can Leverage IP for Business Success.