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The 5-Word Difference Between Invention and Innovation

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Ernest Hemingway (via Wikipedia)

Most of you may be familiar with the unverified story of Hemingway writing a six-word memoir on a dare. Here's what he came up with: 

'For sale: baby shoes, never worn.' 

The idea of capitulating essential information ONLY (in short form) has become increasingly popular, perhaps fueled by IM, SMS, and the brevity of Twitter's 140-character limit, so much so that six-word memoir books and magazines have become a common phenomena.  

Much like in poetry, a concise strand of words imparts both simplicity and power - packing a lot of punch while remaining largely sparse. The activity itself can be a great creative, strategic warm-up exercise for a team.

One of our Front End of Innovation community members on LinkedIn, recently proposed a similar task to our 18,900+ innovation brain trust but he made the challenge a little more constraining. He asked the group, "in 5-words, define the difference between invention and innovation."

Here's a random sampling 10 of the 580+ responses:

  1. All Inventions don't become Innovations. 
  2. Invention creates; innovation realises value.
  3. Novel change that adds value.
  4. Innovation applies invention on purpose.
  5. "Original" inventions versus "valuable" innovations.
  6. Invention: Discovery without chasing a need.
  7. Innovation: Discovery that chased a need.
  8. Innovations can happen without Inventions
  9. Invention investement earns innovation value.
  10. Innovation is invention commercialized.
To see the rest and/or add your own, visit the discussion here.
What is your 5-word explanation of the difference between "invention" and "innovation?" Tell us in the comments below.

Valerie M. Russo is a Senior Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a technology, anthropology, marketing and publishing business acumen.  She is a published poet and also maintains a literary blog. She may be reached at vrusso@iirusa.com. Follow her @Literanista.  

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