The era of invention is not over, but it has definitely been pushed aside for an era of innovation. While many people are still out there trying to come up with the next “big invention” that is going to improve humanity, businesses have discovered that innovation seems to not only trump invention in furthering a company’s brand and profitability, but it can be far cheaper when all the framework is already completed. This can be seen from many major businesses that choose to innovate rather than invent, such as Apple and Sony.
First, we must distinguish the difference between invention and innovation. Invention is the creation of a product or introduction of a new process, for example the Alternating Current induction motor is an invention created in 1888. An innovation occurs when someone improves on or makes a significant contribution to an item or process that has already been invented; the Apple iPhone is an innovation of the cell phone. It seems that great inventors are smaller in number – perhaps business models are leaning towards enabling innovation.
Apple did not invent the cell phone, but they certainly create the standards in what a cell phone should be, thanks to Steve Job’s innovative mind. Martin Cooper, an employee of Motorola, was the inventor of the first mobile phone in 1973. This should have created the stepping stones for a strong corporate image in the market, but without innovation, Motorola has simply become just a name among many other cell phone brands.
Sony’s influence in the technology market started with the invention of the first tape recorder, and through years of creativity and perseverance, became innovators of a variety of categories, from computing and electronics to entertainment. Sony shows corporations that for a business to thrive in today’s market, a company cannot stay stagnant with on particular item – innovations are essential.
Innovation drives economic growth. Joseph Schumpeter, a professor at Harvard University, proposed that five combination patterns are what create innovation:
- The production of a new good
- A new method of production
- A new market
- Acquiring a new source of raw minerals
- The emergence of a new organization.
A company does not need to invent to have a competitive edge in the market, but need to innovate and create a product that is based on the needs and desires of the consumer.