Invention is not Innovation
In the recent post ‘How my Fortune 20 Employer Innovated Itself into Bankruptcy’, Tim Clark (author of Business Model You and editor and contributing co-author of Business Model Generation), wrote:
“In the late 1980s, Kodak was still strong, but our share position was deteriorating fast. We had to innovate even more than ever.
And innovate we did.
The shelves of our R&D laboratories groaned with innovations: digital cameras and capture devices, robotic microfilm loaders, high-speed scanning algorithms, super-robust paper transports — and much, much more.
Yet innovation eventually drove Kodak into bankruptcy…”
Mr. Clark continues with a statement with which I agree…”Innovation is wonderful and essential. But by itself, innovation creates nothing.”…except for a single word. I absolutely agree that Innovation is wonderful and essential for any business to survive.
On the other hand, I disagree with the statement that ‘innovation creates nothing’. See, within this post, Mr. Clark uses the words Innovation and Invention interchangeably. He uses them to mean the same thing. But they don’t. And we shouldn’t. You shouldn’t.
Invention is the process of discovering or creating something new. But, if it is not solving a problem that people are willing to pay for, then it’s worthless. It has no value. Invention is necessary but not sufficient for Innovation.
Enterprise Innovation is doing something different rather than doing the same thing better (also known as improvements). Within an Enterprise, Innovation is doing something different in a way that both supports the corporate strategy AND is valued by the customer. This essential combination leads to increased stakeholder value.
Take flu shots for example. Up until 2009, flu shots were given by your family physician, in their office, and required an appointment. Since 2009, pharmacists are allowed to give seasonal flu shots. The new experience is: No appointment necessary, no special trip required and lower costs. In 2012, Walgreens and CVS combine to give over 10 million flu shots. How’s that for providing a service valued by the customer? Not to mention, directly adding to their bottom line.
In the end, I would change the blog post title from…
‘How my Fortune 20 Employer Innovated Itself into Bankruptcy’ to ‘How my Fortune 20 Employer Invented Itself into Bankruptcy’
And I’d change “innovation is wonderful and essential. But by itself, innovation invention creates nothing”
Kodak was great an Invention. Innovation, not so much.
You can see Tim Clark’s positive reaction to this discussion point in the comments area of his post