While close in stature and commonly confused, invention and innovation are two different concepts. New inventions and ideas come to being every day. Many of these developments are useful, but innovation makes them known and, as such, part of our daily lives. The industrial revolution brought many new inventions, but the innovators behind those inventions made it important. By understanding the difference between the two ideas, you can learn what makes a good invention great.
Invention involves two distinct ideas. Conceptually, it is the act of coming up with an original thought or idea, but concretely an invention is the creation of a new item or device. Invention deals with creation in all its forms. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines invention as “something invented as a product of the imagination or a device, contrivance, or process originated after study and experiment.”
Innovation is the process of bringing inventions to the world. Merriam Webster’s dictionary describes the idea as “the introduction of something new or a new idea, method or device.”
Invention to Innovation
Innovators think of ideas and campaigns to bring inventions to the world. Innovation is the business side of invention. When defined literally, innovation and invention seem very similar, but while invention deals with creation, innovation deals with how to use that creation and to what end. According to techdirt.com, “invention has nothing to do with commercial success -- whereas innovation has everything to do with it.”
The history of the computer reveals the difference between innovation and invention. Computers originally started out for business applications alone. According to Golden Ink, “John Vincent Atanasoff began creating a digital computer in 1936.” The computer is one of humankind’s most important inventions, but the innovative marketing of people like Steve Wosniak and Steve Jobs made them a household device.
The Light Bulb
The first light bulbs came about in the early 1800s; according to Arizona State University, “In 1820, Warren De la Rue made the first known attempt to produce an incandescent light bulb.” Although De la Rue invented the device, it was Thomas Edison, in 1879, who finally produced a working model. Edison’s innovation and marketing strategies made the light bulb one of the world's most important concepts.