Innovation – Invention – Opportunity Capture – What’s the difference?
© Roger La Salle 2010
Change is the order of the day!
There would be little doubt that businesses, whether large or small realise that in order to stay ahead of the game it is essential to be constantly renewing their offerings. Whether it is products, processes, services or simply the way you do business, change is essential.
Long gone are the days when we could be complacent and expect things to continue as usual. If it’s not the internet and the rise of e-commerce, ever changing government regulation, the growth of credit cards, new technologies and materials, things are constantly changing. Further, the pace of change is ever accelerating.
Many businesses challenged by the need to change have embraced “creativity” as a change medium. But what does this really mean – and can it be systematically applied to a business?
I believe that “creativity” as a tool that endeavours to identify new opportunities is a little too generic. Just asking somebody to “be creative” really has no starting point.
This is where the more focused approaches of Invention, Innovation and Opportunity Capture come to the fore. These are “hard tools” that are immediately applicable to any business.
So what’s the Difference?
An invention, by definition requires an element of novelty in that there needs to be some part of the idea for which no “prior art” exists.
Perhaps a good simple definition of Inventions is: “Products without precedent”
Game changing inventions are often the result of Pure Research, such as the development of the semiconductor transistor, the laser, the early day vaccines that completely revolutionised medicine or new materials such as nylon, plastics and Teflon etc..
Applied research, is work done to develop an invention with a clear target market in mind and is vigorously pursued by many large companies. But in this case, the outcomes are possibly best described as Innovations as their starting point was the knowledge of a real need if a solution to a particular problem could be found.
The flat screen television is a classic example. Though the technology it embodies includes many inventions, the clear market aim was to “innovate” the large square box TV with the sure knowledge that a market success would be the result.
How right they were.
Innovation is best defined as “Change that adds value” and this is a call to action.
This definition is founded on two important principles:
There is nothing that cannot be changed in some way to add value, whether it is a product, process or a service, or simply the way you do business
Changing something that is already well accepted in the market place and making it even better is a sure way of almost risk free new business. Simply find any product, process or service that is in widespread use and make it better. In doing so you can almost guarantee that you will have removed the single biggest risk in business, that of market failure. Of course the flat screen TV is a classic example.
The principles of Innovation are extremely simple, all that is needed are some simple tools and some people willing to explore anything you perceive to be in widespread demand – the outcome will be a clear winner in all but a few cases.
- Opportunity Capture
This is what I like to refer to as the big picture as it encompasses both innovation and invention.
Ideally with both invention and innovation we require a starting point, something on which to focus our attention.
“Opportunity capture” offers just that, it’s the seed we need to spawns both invention and innovation.
Opportunity, defined as “An observed fortunate set of circumstances” can easily be taught to people and systematic opportunity search methodologies can be put in place that not only teach your people to understand what an opportunity looks like, but moreover inspires them and provides the tools with which to search.
Opportunity is the real game changer and perhaps a better term to describe what is presently referred to as “open Innovation, though even in that case the open innovation model still fails to put in place a systematic opportunity search mechanism.
Where to from here?
It goes without saying that the need to change is ever on us, research based invention is both expensive, risky and has in many cases has an extraordinarily long time to market.
Innovation is both simple and relatively risk free, if done properly.
The real secret that should underpin all change endeavours is that of structured opportunity capture, that’s the big picture.
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Roger La Salle, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of three books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries. www.matrixthinking.com