innovation not invention

Innovation Insight: You Don’t Have To Be an Inventor to Be an Innovator

One of a series by Ken Tencer, Spyder Works CEO

inventor-vs-innovator

Many people confuse the words innovator and inventor; they can be synonymous, but they don’t have to be. Some of the world’s most successful and well known innovators aren’t inventors at all; they are masters of the art of taking an idea or concept and making it better. Often, they are able to make good ideas into the best ideas of all time.

Take Steve Jobs, for example. Famous author, Malcom Gladwell, has dubbed him, “The Tweaker” in a recent article he wrote for The New Yorker. Jobs was a masterful innovator because he was able to take the ideas of others and turn them into winning products and concepts. For example, Jobs got the ideas for the main characteristics of the MacIntosh operating system from Xerox PARC, stemming from a famous visit there in 1979. The revolutionary iPad evolved from an engineer at Microsoft’s idea for a tablet computer. His idea made use of a stylus – an old idea that wasn’t revolutionary enough for Jobs. He did away with the stylus and the iPad made history as one of the most coveted devices of its era.

The moral to this innovation story? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to become an epic success.

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Innovation Insight: The Car Next Door

One of a series by Ken Tencer, Spyder Works CEO

At the World Innovation Convention in Cannes in September, a fascinating new British company came up in conversation: WhipCar. I had heard of the now global short-term rental phenomenon ZipCar, but WhipCar was new to me: peer-to-peer car rentals. The company describes itself as “the first service in the world where a car owner can rent out their vehicle for money, whenever they are not using it. WhipCar pairs approved drivers with spare car time. We screen all cars joining the service and all drivers booking cars.”

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How to identify innovation opportunities

Innovation is a process that stymies many companies. They’re so eager to find their next big breakthrough that they don’t realize that innovation is a simple process that anyone can learn.

It’s not a matter of waiting and waiting till you hit a home run. Successful innovation is all about getting the basics right every day, and hitting lots of singles.

One innovative-thinking technique we use at Spyder Works is the “Rule or Guideline?” game. We ask clients to write down a list of all the rules at their businesses that they know they mustn’t break. These lists invariably include laws, safety rules and industry regulations, but also lots of conventions, rules of thumbs, best practices and bad habits. We then ask the clients to cross off all the rules that have been legislatively imposed – the rules where an authority can actually punish you for violating. You don’t want to break those rules.

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