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Why invention is not enough for Digital Transformation!

Although they have been used interchangeably there is a difference between the two.

Invention is something that has never been made before, or the ?process of ?creating something that has never been made before. So an invention is something that has never been done before, Invention is to create something new.
Innovation is getting people to adopt change, its inventiveness put to use. Innovation is creating somethings that sells.

So if you want your innovation to succeed you have to focus on adoption. Inventions become innovations only when they are adopted into practice.

Most of our thinking about innovation is dominated by invention because of an implicit assumption that inventions are the main cause of innovations. This is the reason why we overdose on ideas, with the assumption that if we are not cooking up ideas we cannot innovate.

Peter Drucker identified seven sources of innovation, new knowledge is just one of those sources . These days almost always new knowledge is associated with technology, but it is about more than just technology though, it’s about finding better ways of doing things and improving processes.

Invention is important but its not enough to ensure adoption because the outcome of an invention process is a prototype and the outcome of an innovation process is adoption of a new practice

Many organizations approach digital transformation as an invention process i.e. they mostly think of it as the research, development & implementation of the next new technology. But I think digital transformation needs an innovation oriented approach.

Think of the Segway a great invention but probably not a great innovation. How many people know of and use a Segway?

Think of the “ green dot” symbol that you find in packaged food products sold in India. If you are a vegetarian living in India chances are that you are familiar with it and have found it to be extremely useful. The “green dot” is a example of a great innovation, but generally not considered to be an invention simply because its demonstrate the use of new technology.

The overemphasis on invention in the context of digital transformation leads to digital fashionistas, which are organizations that invest a lot in cool digital technology but create very little of the transformation .

What do you think? Do you Agree? Is your organization a Digital Fashionista or a Digirati (digital leader). The answer might lie in whether your focus is on just invention or on innovation.


Sanjay Radhakrishnan is the Chief Design Officer @ Designs in Change.

With over 2 decades of experience, he believes the goal of business should be about being in good business i.e. to sustain itself to deliver things that people want in society, that will make their lives and the world better. He uses design & technology as important tools in facilitating this change.

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