Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Impact of Innovation: Comparing Edison and Tesla

The concept of “innovation” has been deliberated in a array of frameworks including its impact on technology, commerce, society, economies, and policies.

A consistent theme comes through: innovation is the successful introduction of something new and useful – like new methods, techniques, or practices or new or altered products and services.

An vital distinction is generally made between invention and innovation:
  • Invention is the first occurrence of an idea for a new product or process
  • Innovation is the first attempt to carry it out into practice
In business, some say that innovation can be distinguished simply from invention: Invention is the conversion of cash into ideas. Innovation is the conversion of ideas into cash.

This is observed by comparing Thomas Edison with Nikola Tesla. Thomas Edison was as innovator because he made money from his ideas. Nikola Tesla was an inventor. Tesla spent money to create his inventions but was unable to monetize them.

So, in the context of our work and this book, innovation occurs when someone uses an invention or an idea to change how medicine works, how scientists organize research, or how technology changes lives.

And that’s why N-of-8 certainly involves creativity, but is not limited to it.  Because the resulting innovations should involve acting on the creative ideas to make some specific and tangible difference.  For innovation to make the greatest impact, something more than the generation of a creative idea or insight is required.  The insight must be put into action to make a genuine difference, resulting for example in new or altered business processes or changes in the products and services provided.

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