Innovation comes in many forms. Unfortunately, the term is often confused with an invention. However, an invention is not an innovation, but innovation is an invention. Quite confusing. This article will create clarity in the different terms that are not the same but are related to each other: creativity, invention and innovation. If we look at the innovation literature, there are some clear differences between the three terms that are related but do not mean the same thing. Through the explanation of creativity and an invention, the question will ultimately be answered: What is innovation?


It is often thought that creativity only occurs in areas such as art and music. However, creativity is reflected in everything. Creativity is especially important for (startup) companies because it can provide a good competitive advantage in the longer term. We get the definition of creativity from the innovation literature and are defined by the scientist Amabile as follows:
Creativity is the production of new ideas that are appropriate and useful in a certain situation.

Creativity Example

Imagine you are at work and there are papers everywhere. Different telephone appointments, appointment at 10 a.m. with a friend etc. Buried in all kinds of small papers you come up with the idea to put a little glue on the paper and temporarily stick them on the computer screen.
This example happened literally at 3M, where an employee used his creativity to come up with a new idea that was appropriate and useful in his given situation. If we then look at the definition of creativity you see that it meets the 'criteria'. It is a new idea that fit and was useful in this situation.

The resource-based view even states that creativity is a strategic resource for a company. A strategic resource is something that is valuable, rare, imitable and non-replaceable. Creativity is something that is hard to copy, not 'replaced' with something else, rare and valuable because it belongs to people. Money, for example, is a strategic resource that is less valuable because it can also be obtained through various means.

An invention and innovation are often confused. The computer (PC) was a Xerox invention in the early 1970s, but it was Apple / IBM that made it a real innovation. The fact that we all know Apple makes computers has something to do with the success of the invention on a large scale in the market.

An invention is the development of something new and useful, also called creative thinking embodied in a physical form. If you have a creative idea, the next step is to make this idea physical. When it is made physically, we call it an invention. Everyone can be an inventor, but not all inventors are innovators.

For example, if you have a nice idea about pre-heated toilet seats and you decide to make it physical, it becomes an invention. However, it is not very likely that it will become an innovation, partly because it is difficult to market. Are we all going to buy large-scale heating in our toilet seat? In short, inventions are more or less experiments of creative ideas.

What is innovation?

So, innovation is not your home-made for the heated toilet seat, but it was the 3M post-it and the personal computer. When is an invention no longer an invention but an innovation? In short, what is innovation?

An Innovation is the successful (commercial) implementation of creative ideas by an organization.

There are countless examples of innovation in this article. The post-it that was conceived by an employee was not immediately a hit. But after a few years, the idea was finally taken up and commercial efforts were made to bring the product to the market. A business model, strategy and tactics must be devised and ultimately everything must be implemented. This ensures that innovation can become a commercial success. In addition, it is important to protect innovation through a patent. This prevents someone, or a company, from marketing the idea.

Xerox, the original inventor of the PC, has failed to turn the PC into an innovation. They had their focus on something else at the time. Perhaps if they had taken up this invention, it is quite possible that we now know nothing but Xerox PCs. IBM did see opportunities in the idea of the computer and made organizational efforts to commercialize the invention. The focus was to show that the PC is new and useful for many different situations, such as calculations, writing letters and of course the internet. However, by no means all innovations are just a success; over 90% do not even achieve the first year. Read Innovation Management

Author's Bio: 

Life is challenging and we have to survive with our abilities. Polishing your skills is necessary.