Invention vs Innovation is something that many people are constantly clowding. What’s interesting is hearing how people see the difference between innovation and invention.
This started off by a post by Mike Masnick, of TechDirt, on Why the Segway failed. Clearly the Segway and it’s ability to maintain balance through computer programming was a step forward in innovative history. But what happened? The Segway didn’t move forward due to innovation.
I posted Masnick’s article on Twitter (what can I say? I liked it). It spread, like any tweet, and Brandon Kelley picked it up, pointing me to an interview he did with Dean Kamen. The interview, I think, was about innovation…about half way through, they went into a spew how Kamen’s company is innovating, which I feel is slightly off, but on track. They touched briefly on the Segway and Kamen’s feeling on it. Kamen’s point was simple – society needs to change. This simply is incorrect.
The point of innovation is actually adapting technology to the market needs. Insulin pumps clearly had a medical need. However, judging from this description a “big blue brick” clearly did not have a market need. Kamen mistook the insulin pump as a need that people needed to adapt to. But what actually happened was innovation: the pump changed. It became more practical to use. Today, it’s as simple as a quick shot, which you can hide in your pocket until the time of need. The original need, an insulin pump, never changed. If you attempted to release it again, as a “big blue brick” it would, again, be rejected by society. The market didn’t change. The invention didn’t change. It was innovation that changed the way the invention worked to make it more market savvy.
Innovation isn’t about changing society. It’s about the invention changing to society’s needs. It’s about the invention adapting to become something society will accept, often by becoming more compact/portable or simple more affordable.
Back to the Segway — it was clearly an inventive step forward, but it didn’t meet any market needs. Who needs to pay five grand to stop walking? Who needs to pay five grand to walk 12mph? Motorcycles cost less than the Segway.
The invention — the ability for a computer to self collaborate equilibrium and maintain balance — was an amazing step forward. But the innovation, a wanna-be scooter (?) … an alternate method of walking (?), clearly did not meet any market needs. And so, this is why it didn’t make any headway.