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Invention vs. Innovation: Understanding the Difference

by: David Ricketts

Home / Innovation / Invention vs. Innovation: Understanding the Difference

Invention vs. innovation — Many people mistake invention for innovation or believe that every invention is an innovation, but this is not exactly accurate. The key difference to understand is that invention is about the creation of something new, without regard for value.

You can come up with a new idea or product and even secure a patent for it, but that does not automatically mean that it has practical value. Creativity for the sake of doing something different does not guarantee success in the marketplace. If you want to innovate you have to combine inventiveness with a measurable and marketable value-add. Start with identifiable value. Then create an innovation to capture it.

Here’s a great example:

In the late 1800s, people used oil lamps as a means of portable light. They were messy, not very bright and dangerous. The invention of the electric lantern, or flashlight, was an innovation and an invention. The development of an LED flash was also an invention, but not an innovation. It did not create new value, but rather just a new form of the existing value.

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