What are the major differences between innovation and invention?


In recently published INVENTology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 2015), Pagan Kennedy offers working definitions of invention and innovation by Art Fry — the originator of the Post-it Note — who developed his own way of distinguishing invention from innovation, “and his definitions are so illuminating that I will borrow them and use them throughout this book. Invention, according to Fry, is what happens when you translate a thought into a thing. More specifically, Fry points out that an invention usually involves creating a prototype that lets you test your concept and demonstrate that it works. Once you’ve created that model, ’the creation becomes an invention,’ according to Fry. The process may require dreaming, drawing, observation, idea generation, discovery, tinkering, and engineering. But it should end with the proof.

“Innovation is what happens afterwards. It ‘is the act of working through all of the obstacles and problems in the path of turning a creative idea into a business,’ according to Fry. Indeed, the term [begin] innovation ids often used as a catchall word to describe the challenges companies must overcome in order to mass-produce a product. — like streamlining, shaving costs, managing supply chains, and assembling teams of collaborators.”

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The former Innovation columnist for the New York Times Magazine, Pagan is author of eleven books. She has been an MIT Knight Science Journalism fellow and published articles in dozens of newspapers and magazines. Other awards include a Smithsonian fellowship, a Massachusetts Book Prize honor in nonfiction, and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.

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