Invention Vs. Innovation

Invention Vs. Innovation

There’s this spark that ignites whenever a new idea is born – a flash of genius, a lightbulb moment. Often, this spark transforms into a raging fire that electrifies markets and redefines our daily lives. But is that an invention or an innovation?

When there’s a flicker of an idea that ends up setting the world on fire, there’s actually an intricate dance happening in the background, between the intertwined forces of invention and innovation. These two concepts, while often used interchangeably, represent distinct yet interconnected aspects of the cycle of progress.

Let’s first take a look at their dictionary definitions:

What is invention?



something that no one has made before, or the process of creating something no one has made before

What is innovation?



(the use of) a new idea or method

This article delves into the subtleties that distinguish these twin flames, as well as their broader impact on not just businesses, but on society, the environment, and the economy at large. We’ll touch base on the journey of an idea as it evolves from raw conception to revolutionary impact.

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A New Idea Vs. An Idea That Sells: The Difference Between Invention and Innovation

Drones were once just an invention but now they are also an innovation by our definition.
Drones were once just an invention but now they are also an innovation by our definition. Photo by Pankaj Biswas

In its purest sense, invention refers to a new and original “thing,” the genesis of something unprecedented. It means giving birth to new ideas, technologies, or prototypes that have never been attempted or realized before. It’s about discovery – not utility or viability. On the other hand, innovation occurs when something novel turns into a commercial product that generates value

Put another way, invention is about conception, and innovation entails execution and market penetration.

Think about how the creation of the lightbulb – by Thomas Edison after 1,000 attempts – was a landmark event, but the real innovation occurred when this technology was refined, mass-produced, and widely adopted. Innovation leveraged the invention. 

The same was in the case of the 5,126 failures behind the Dyson vacuum. It was merely an invention until the company commercialized the bagless vacuum.

The distinction between invention and innovation is crucial, especially in the landscape of startups and venture capital. An idea, no matter how brilliant, won’t take off if it isn’t commercialized properly. This may be due to a lack of understanding of market dynamics, customer needs, or scalability.

Not every invention becomes an innovation, but all innovations stem from some form of invention (i.e., the likes of Apple, Tesla, and Amazon). Here’s a table of comparison to further illustrate the key differences:

A comparison between invention and innovation

DefinitionCreation of a new idea, process, or productApplication of ideas into marketable solutions
FocusDiscovery and conceptionTransformation, execution, market viability, and utility
ConcernSingle product or processCombination of various products and process
ExampleLight bulb
Touch screens
Energy-efficient LED bulbs
iPhone and other gadgets

Why is innovation important?

Innovation is a lot more important than you think.
Innovation is a lot more important than you think. Photo by Startup Stock Photos

The impact of inventions and innovations is far-reaching, transforming the ways we live, work, and interact with our environment.

Societal Impact of Innovation

Inventions spawn fresh ideas. Innovations make a profound impact on society. No matter which side of the spectrum your career falls on, people like you help nurture a society that thrives on knowledge, creativity, and progress. For instance, the invention of the internet led to its innovative applications, such as social media apps, e-commerce, online education, and streaming platforms.

Environmental Impact of Innovation

This dynamic duo can either help or harm our environment. Fossil-fueled vehicles are a case in point. Although this was an undeniably disruptive invention in the transportation industry, it sparked environmental concerns. Fast forward to today, we see the innovative creation of electric cars offering an eco-friendly alternative, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Economic Impact of Innovation

Inventions and innovations are the twin engines of economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness. That’s why it’s no rare occurrence that countries that invest in innovation (e.g., United States, South Korea) experience higher growth rates. 

However, the economic effects can also create challenges. As industries evolve, some jobs become obsolete, resulting in displacement and necessitating skill upgrades or retraining. That’s why it’s vital for countries and businesses to manage and adapt to these transitions – especially via innovation. In case you haven’t heard about it – you should probably start paying more attention to the next innovation taking the world by storm: artificial intelligence (AI).

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At the Embiggen Group, We Turn Sparks into Flame

Venture building is within the third horizon of innovation.
The three horizons of innovation. Embiggen’s flagship innovation solution, venture building, is on the third horizon.

Think back to the early days of your career when you were eager to explore the real world, brimming with all your ideas, ambitions, and aspirations. Imagine if you had someone like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Jeff Bezos by your side. You have that opportunity today. 

Here at the Embiggen Group, innovation is our lifeblood. We help our clients from industry and academia go from ideation to market domination. Our inventive thinking and innovative execution are what will propel you to cross the bridge between a good idea and a product that truly sells. Take a break from your traditional role and ignite the dormant culture of creativity within your organization. Let’s set the world on fire (in a good way). Book a free strategy session today – just prepare your burning questions, and we’ll handle the rest.