Is Innovation More Important Than Invention?

| By Editorial Staff

InnovationEveryone has heard the famous quote from one of the most celebrated inventors of our time.  No, I am not talking about Thomas Edison’s famous quote but instead, an arguably much more influential figure: Willy Wonka.  Perhaps the most important nugget of wisdom that the famous chocolatier shared with the world was that, “Invention is 93% perspiration 6% inspiration 3% perspiration and 2% butter scotch ripple.”

If Willy Wonka taught us nothing else it is that there is often a fine line between genius and insanity. Perspiration and hard work are extra important, and the “butter scotch ripple” of it all is that nameless ingredient we cannot seem to pin down. Many people have given this ingredient a name, which is innovation.  This is not only important on the individual level, but can make or break a business as well.

Business Innovation and Invention

Innovative businesses create dynamic products, adjust existing services, and/or implement new ideas. They are not afraid to color outside the lines and try something new, even if it is risky. If a business is not innovative, they risk losing work to competitors. Lack of innovation also has indirect results such as losing staff and decreasing engagement. Therefore, innovation cannot be an afterthought, but rather a crucial element that is included in part of your strategy. It should be a cultural outlook that impacts thinking and improves problem solving. Many successful companies attribute their success to their innovative practices. That said, inventing and innovation are not one in the same.  Invention focuses on creating new items or new ways to produce existing items. Very often, invention is a result of innovation, but it is not a requirement. Although invention can be beneficial to a business, the level of importance and necessity can vary according to the industry.

How Do I Best Use Them Together?

Every company benefits from employees thinking creatively, but this can hinder efficiency if not well-balanced.  Below are a few ways to create an environment where both are possible.

  1. Embrace Failure: Someone once said that each failure is a step on the road to success. It is unavoidable and needs to be embraced in order to discover what does and does not work.  Experimentation is a key component to both innovation and invention. While most experiments fail, it only takes one attempt to result in success and thus should not be frowned upon.
  2. Go Against The Grain: This is more than just “thinking outside the box.” It also involves practices like hiring a diverse group of industry outsiders and not reinventing an existing product with simply one small change.  Going against what is already established will give you more perspectives to consider and prevent falling back on existing ideas that could lead to products that are not in demand.
  3. Emotional Connection: This applies to both your employees as well as customers. People care more and work harder when they are emotionally invested.  Furthermore, emotions are linked to the creative part of the brain and a greater chance for innovation exists when accessing it.  Listen to your customers as if you have the same emotional investment that they do.  They will not only appreciate it, but also a unified vision around this will also give a better perspective of their needs. As a result, new ideas and patterns of thinking will emerge.

Innovation and invention are both extremely important to our society.  It is not surprising that many people consider the two to be synonymous, as they often have a symbiotic relationship.  If not for innovations in education and technology for example, our development as human beings would plateau and the need to invent would become less relevant.  Businesses are not exempt to this phenomenon and in order for any company to grow, they must learn from the past to take chances for the future.