💡 What’s the difference between invention and innovation?


Have you ever heard about the dispute of two
Steves who created an apple? Of course, it is about the disagreements between
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs: two co-founders of Apple Inc. Steve Wozniak was an engineer: he designed
and constructed Apple I and Apple II – one of the first personal computers in history. Steve Jobs was a businessman: he turned ideas
into market successes and, thanks to his great marketing skills, encouraged millions of people
to buy Apple products. The cooperation of the two, however, was not
smooth and without clashes. Wozniak has repeatedly emphasized that in
his opinion Jobs is not a great visionary changing the world – but only a man with
a marketing flair who can use other people’s ideas and make money on them. Nowadays Steve Jobs is the first person that
comes to mind when we talk about the creators of Apple’s success. Steve Wozniak seems to remain in the shadow
of glory of his great namesake. Many computer geeks who are keenly interested
in the industry openly claim that Jobs did not create anything himself, but merely “stole”
fame and money from Wozniak. We are facing an alleged dichotomy between
a genius and creator – namely: Wozniak – and a parasite gaining profits from other people’s
achievements – i.e. Jobs. A poor but brilliant inventor versus “only”
an entrepreneur. Does it really work like this and are the
real creators of millions of life-changing inventions exploited by greedy businessmen? To answer this question we have to first understand
the difference between an invention and an innovation. Inventions are the driving force of technological
development which is crucial for a civilization’s development. Prosperity, length and quality of life, as
well as the convenience of everyday lives of people all over the world depend on technology. Technology has increased the productivity
of manufactories several dozen times – thanks to the use of steam engines. It freed farmers from hard and exhausting
work from dawn till dusk – because it provided them with tractors and harvesters. It made traveling around the world easier
and faster – thanks to railways, then cars, and then airplanes. However, not every invention contributes to
technological development, and some – even the brilliant ones – are never widely used. Why? Let’s look at what an invention is. James Burke in an article on Encyclopædia
Britannica Online defines invention this way: “Invention, the act of bringing ideas or objects
together in a novel way to create something that did not exist before” . The first man-made wheel (and then axle, and
wheelset) was an invention because it was a new way to solve the problem of transport
and it made possible the creation of carts. The first hoe, the first sundial, the first
water mill – each one of these was an invention, just like the inventions whose creators we
know today by name, such as a modern printing press with a movable font by Johannes Gutenberg,
an atmospheric steam engine by Thomas Newcomen, Orville and Wilbur Wright’s airplane or DYNABOOK,
i.e. the first visionary portable personal computer designed by Alan Key in Xerox PARC
laboratories. We understand what inventions were and are. However, not every invention becomes as groundbreaking
as the ones mentioned above – and it certainly does not become so immediately. History gives examples of numerous (known
by name or nameless) inventors who created new technological solutions which surpassed
everything that contemporary people knew about – and yet their inventions were either forgotten
or simply did not find a wider resonance in the society of their era. Leonardo da Vinci, widely recognized as the
archetype of the Renaissance man, was to be the creator of dozens of inventions that only
centuries later were actually used – he is credited with, among others, inventing
the parachute . However, parachutes (as well as many other inventions attributed to da
Vinci) were not used until few centuries later. You can even talk about the entire “nations
of inventors” that gave the world the creators of extraordinary technologies, but often these
technologies for centuries did not have any wider implications for these nations. They were rather curiosities and toys for
rich elites than widely available goods that changed the lives of the masses. Ancient and medieval China can be a good example
of this: a country of numerous inventions, that did not, however, significantly change
the daily lives of average Chinese for a long time (often for centuries) after being invented. Even the famous Four Great Inventions (i.e.
print, compass, paper and gunpowder), which in China are a classic symbol of the scientific
and technological power of the country, found wider, more common and more revolutionary
applications later in Europe, and not in the Middle Kingdom itself. Not every invention changes the world, and
certainly not every one does it immediately or through the actions of the inventor himself. It is not the fault of fate or immaturity
of society unable to appreciate the inventor’s genius. In order for the invention to become a breakthrough
and to change the lives of the masses – it must become an innovation. Innovation is an invention implemented and
used on a large scale. The first wheel (and axle) could have been
the most brilliant invention of the world at that time – but it did not change the
fate of others or improve the quality of life of the people of that era, until the inventor
presented his novelty, explained its meaning and applications and showed that it could
be used for faster and easier transport. Gutenberg’s printing press would not matter
at all if it were not adopted by others and if it soon did not become widely used to print
writings, including the Holy Bible translated into national languages. The Newcomen’s steam engine would be forgotten
and would only exist as a record in a dusty work of some historian if in 1712 the Staffordshire
mine did not run the first of these machines to accelerate and facilitate coal mining – which
proved in practice the efficiency of the machine in the mining industry. Similarly, the same engine could never become
a key element of the industrial revolution, were it not for the subsequent improvements
and mass sales that we owe to James Watt. Innovation is an invention that has been successfully
presented to the masses and sold on the market. The inventor is (of course!) the father of
the invention – but entrepreneurs are the father of innovation. Sometimes it is one and the same person – history
knows many inventor-entrepreneurs, such as Thomas Alva Edison. However, the author of the spectacular success
of a given technological novelty is often someone else entirely than the inventor himself. This is not surprising – after all, not
every scientist or engineer must be also a businessman and a specialist in advertising,
promotion and sales. In society, everyone acts on the basis of
his or her best judgment, engages in voluntary interactions with others, and has a chance
to profit from it. The one who best meets the needs of a wide
range of consumers gains the most – but, nevertheless, everyone gains: the inventor,
the entrepreneur, the “multiplier” of a given invention and finally the final recipient
of the product: the consumer. Back to the example of China: why the industrial
revolution and the radical increase in prosperity and improvement of society’s living conditions
started not in China, but in Great Britain and the USA, and not before the mid-eighteenth
century? It might seem that China had everything a
country needs for a breakthrough: inventions, huge population, large surface area, lots
of natural resources. However, for an invention to become an innovation
and to actually change people’s lives, something else is needed: well-functioning market institutions
and people who can make use of them: the entrepreneurs. This new group of people took up (and continue
to this day) the fight against uncertainty. What does it mean? Entrepreneurs try to anticipate the what,
when and whys that will be needed for as many people as possible, and then to provide them
with these goods and services in the best and cheapest way possible. They take this uncertainty on their shoulders:
if their predictions prove to be correct, they have a chance to make a profit; if they
are wrong they will suffer a loss. What does this mean for the story of two Steves
arguing over an apple? Are we really dealing with the story of a
poor inventor: a genius used by a bloodthirsty entrepreneur? Maybe the creator of Apple’s breakthrough
technology was not Steve Jobs, but Steve Wozniak. However, without the entrepreneurial skills,
business intuition and market sense that characterized Jobs, Apple Inc. could not be so successful,
and Apple I and Apple II could have ended up as interesting, but forgotten inventions,
lying in the dust of some abandoned garage. It is worth appreciating that we were lucky
to have both of them: the inventor and his inventions – as well as the entrepreneur
and his innovations. Script written by Mateusz Błaszczyk, co-creator
of a YouTube podcast series “Class of the Atlas” (“Klasa Atlasa”).

6 Comments

  1. Alex Müller said:

    I feel like I am repeating myself, but here we go again. An outstanding educational piece of work, especially in an era where the word 'entrepreneur' has lost a lot of its glory.

    February 11, 2020
    Reply
  2. The Modern Day Warrior said:

    The Multiplier at 7:31… Since the Inventor seems like the 1st part of the process, the Entrepreneur 2nd, could you possibly go deeper into that 3rd concept of the Multiplier?

    February 15, 2020
    Reply
  3. calvin chew said:

    Inventions precede innovations but NOT all inventions turn into innovations. It takes wide acceptance by the masses who r seduced by u guess it "entrepreneurs…"

    February 16, 2020
    Reply
  4. Thomas Sawyer said:

    Thank You so much econclips 🙂

    February 16, 2020
    Reply
  5. elrolesk said:

    As ways great video my friends!!! Keep the Hard work.. Still missing your old voice 😂

    February 16, 2020
    Reply
  6. Ashley Green said:

    Cool ⭐app

    February 16, 2020
    Reply

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