16 November 2004

Invention or Innovation?

This bit of insight from Michael Schrage (MIT's Tech Review) over at Techdirt's blog may go a long way in explaining our weakness in innovation here in Nederland.

He claims that innovation is much more important - and more importantly - is entirely separate from invention. According to him, inventors were historically innovators. It's only the distance of history that has rewritten their stories as if they were inventors.

Scrage points out that invention has nothing to do with commercial success - whereas innovation has everything to do with it. Furthermore, this ties into the ongoing debate over patent reform: "If you want to learn about the importance of "invention" over the past 300 years, talk to the lawyers. If you want to hear about the importance of "innovation," however, talk to anyone else."

So, the real question then, is whether or not our intellectual property system should be encouraging invention or innovation? I'd vote for innovation - innovation drives the economy. We need fewer lawyers involved with the patent system, and perhaps more innovators.

"The technical excellence of an invention matters far less than the economic willingness of the customer or client to explore it." In other words, any system designed to encourage innovation needs to encourage actually making use of the innovation - and not, for example, sitting on a patent and doing nothing with it.

We're about to hold a Pow-Wow tomorrow about this very issue. Our new initiative - "Innovation is a culture" - builds a path from mind-set through understanding the processes and procedures needed to grow innovation as a culture inside the organization.

1 comment:

Jochem Donkers said...


I tried to type a reaction. But a bit tired. I hope to post it in the coming days. Have fun tomorrow though!

Can you believe it by the way that I can not find a place where I can buy the December (special on creativity) issue of FastCompany in Copenhagen? This really surprises me!