Invention vs. Innovation

Nature vs. Nurture. The old debate that pits the importance of someone’s innate and inherent qualities, against their personal experiences in determining future physical and behavioural traits (For the smarties out there; English Polymath Francis Galton, who was strongly influenced by Charles Darwin, coined that particular phrase but the ideals can also be traced back to Shakespeare’s play The Tempest). In the same way that there are arguments for both sides in terms of human behavior, the same arguments can be made in regards to starting your own business. Nature is the concept of invention. Creating your own product can be not only be deeply satisfying knowing that this is your OWN original idea, but it can also be groundbreaking in terms of advancing the human race (in some cases). Nurture, is the concept if innovation. Adaptation of original ideas to make them better or more profitable (ideally, both!). But, which is better in terms of success for entrepreneurs?

When talking to the Entrepreneur Magazine, David Edwards (founder of the Paris-based experimental art and design center Le Laboratoire) suggests that invention is the only way in order to further society and communities, especially with the world in a way that it is now. David Cohen (CEO of TechStars) back-up this sentiment by encouraging startups to, “look at what’s bugging you”, when talking to the Wall Street Journal. The assumption is that you are not the only person who is experiencing that problem; so fixing it will be fixing an issue experienced around the world, no matter how small. Both writers promote fostering “radical ideas” by entrepreneurs in order to invent something that might change the world. It is these ideas that could have important medical, social and environmental applications, and someone has to pursue them!

Opposite David Edwards is Krisztina Holly (creator of the first TEDx conference), who believes that innovation is the more successful path for entrepreneurs. For each successful invention, there are probably thousands upon thousands of failures that never made it off the ground. At the same time, she remarks how people are very tentative to try new things. Howard Tullman, from Inc. Magazine, backs this up by talking about how any salesperson will tell you, selling a new product is much more difficult then selling something that is slightly familiar. He firmly believes that inventing something and trying to sell it to people wastes your own, as well as your target customer’s time as not many people are willing “cross the chasm”. As attractive as inventing something yourself may be, it may be, survival in the entrepreneurial world might be more dependent on innovation.

Edwards is in firm belief that greater companies will arise from a culture that focuses on radical ideas than one more intent of building on what is already there. He believes that the future will shine brighter if we are more “creative” entrepreneurs, encouraging potentially reckless thinking. Thomas Edison once said, “there are no rules – we’re trying to accomplish something.” However, Holly sternly quips, “If you build it, there’s no guarantee they will come”. The idea might be great, but until it is executed, that is all it will be, a thought in your head.

So which one will lead to more success? I guess there is really only way to find out is to try…

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