The Difference Between Innovation And Invention... In Two Minutes With A Whiteboard

from the see-if-you-can-figure-out-what-the-product-is dept

It's time for our third UPS-sponsored whiteboard video, explaining some of the topics we discuss around here in two minutes or less. As you might remember, the first explained the economics of abundance and the second discussed the innovator's dilemma. This third one is about the difference between invention and innovation, and the process of getting from the first to the second, using one particular product as an example:
Once again, these videos were sponsored by UPS, though we had free rein in creating the actual presentation, and it's quite obviously based on topics that we discuss here on a regular basis.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    What is really amazing is that the process took more than 17 years! Damn patents!

     

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  2.  
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    angry dude, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:27am

    Mikey needs diet and exercise

    I didn't see your bottom but from the looks of your upper body you need to drop at least 25 lb

    You are starting to look like a typical CEO pig

    And you are only what, 30 something ?

     

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  3.  
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    Joe, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:40am

    Left handed freak!

    Draw your "O" the other direction.

     

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  4.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:46am

    Re: Mikey needs diet and exercise

    "I didn't see your bottom but from the looks of your upper body you need to drop at least 25 lb"

    Okay, the obvious question regarding your interest in his looks aside, is that comment REALLY the best you have to offer to this discussion? Personal insults are the way to go, huh? This comment, more than any of the other idiotic bullshit you have spewed in the past, proves to me that you have no interest in altering minds or convincing intellectual people of your way of thinking, but that you'd rather play the brat.

    "You are starting to look like a typical CEO pig"

    And you've quickly gone from being entertainingly infuriating to completely irrelevant.

     

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  5.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:47am

    Re: Mikey needs diet and exercise

    I was wondering how the "anti-Mike" guys were going to respond to this one, but it's already started. Screw his argument; insult him personally.

    Seriously?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    Re: Mikey needs diet and exercise

    Oh, now we know what angry dude's imaginary patent is about: a new method of exercise.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:57am

    Mike, was it your birthday yesterday?

    I'm going to send you a big plastic deer.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Mikey needs diet and exercise

    I hit his argument exactly: Innovation happened regardless of patents. More importantly, the innovation that did happen wasn't of the "repaint and resell" variety, but rather of clear and notable improvements and complete changes in product.

    Nothing got in the way of "innovation". It's amazing.

     

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  9.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Re: Mikey needs diet and exercise

    While Mr. angry dude used to be considered some sort of misguided and offensive critic, now has cemented his position as a single-minded and deliberate troll. The only reason he makes his comments is to watch people react and then point, Nelson-style, and yell "ha ha!".

    Which makes sense, who else would use "angry dude" as a nickname. He probably has some sort of blog where he yells at other random blogs and then tells his followers how cool he is.

     

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  10.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Mikey needs diet and exercise

    I wasn't talking to you. My Re was to the guy after you.

     

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  11.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:03pm

    Re:

    What is really amazing is that the process took more than 17 years! Damn patents!

    Yeah, actually, there's much more to this story, which is that the main company behind the zipper did patent it, and did aggressively enforce the patents -- which is part of the reason that innovation in the space was so slow. There were some more innovative and useful solutions that were made by others, but they got shot down by the original patent holder.

    But that was a separate issue from what was discussed in the video.

    In the absence of patents, the "zipper" likely would have come about much sooner.

     

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  12.  
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    Trails, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    I really just need to say

    Mike, that is one snazzy sport coat.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Re:

    Do you think? Or perhaps there would have been 101 verions of the c-curity clip, as companies rushed look-a-like products into the market rather than spending the time and effort to develop something truly new.

    See? It all depends on how you look at things. Re-writing history in your mental image is easy.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Oh, yes, everyone would certainly rush to copy a product that was terrible, rather than try to make something better to compete.

     

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  15.  
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    Logo, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:37pm

    I really like these video but holy crap enough of the Postal Service.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:38pm

    Wow zipper technology is a great cutting edge example. Congrats on being about 150 years behind technology. Next video should be about how Moses patented the ark and set boatmaking back 1000 years.

     

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  17.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    Re:

    Wow zipper technology is a great cutting edge example. Congrats on being about 150 years behind technology. Next video should be about how Moses patented the ark and set boatmaking back 1000 years.

    Heh. Since the point was to show the difference between innovation and invention over a lifecycle, the whole point was to use a technology that had gone through the lifecycle.

    Using a "cutting edge" example doesn't make any sense because it's not clear where the market is going for that.

    Sorry if that wasn't clear.

     

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  18.  
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    scarr (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re:

    Your post-MTV attention span length piece, featuring music from The Postal Service (a band that worked remotely via digital recordings), offered up freely worldwide and embedded on your technology-themed blog is so old fashioned!

     

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  19.  
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    Jason (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    Thanks!

    Thanks Mike!

    These videos have been really enjoyable and thought-inducing!

    You've done a good job of simplifying these various concepts by putting them in this whiteboard-video format. Love it!

    What was it about the BF Goodrich deal / product modification that made the zipper 'acceptable' when it previously hadn't been? I'm making an assumption that the modification wasn't a huge variation on the original concept... Maybe the market's general attitude had something to do with acceptance at the time also...

     

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  20.  
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    Benjie, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 2:07pm

    Nice

    I liked it

     

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  21.  
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    Beta, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    bootstrapping

    I'm sure there have been improvements in the device itself, but I think the zipper is a perfect example of a device that's valuable because it's familiar. We all learned how to use the zipper in childhood, so we don't even think about it any more. We know how to start the end of a jacket zipper, how to pull to make it lock or unlock cleanly, how to avoid breaking it or jamming it or getting things caught in it (ouch!), and when it finally gives out we know that it has to be replaced, we don't curse the design (well, I do, but most don't).

    If the modern zipper in all its refinement were introduced today to a world that had never seen it, it would be a tough sell.

     

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  22.  
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    Zippie, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 2:33pm

    Re: bootstrapping

    Why would it be a tough-sell today, in your opinion? Is it because we can't even conceptualize a better alternative to it because of it's existence? Maybe the fact that we still rely so heavily on zippers today is because there has been no better innovation.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Copying gives you a cut of an existing market.

    Developing gives you the entirety of a brand new market.

    And most importantly, the first company to invent a market (and not give people a reason to run to the competitors) is the one that usually keeps the stranglehold.

     

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  24.  
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    Glaze, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 3:05pm

    Re: Re: bootstrapping

    I have to disagree with this one. I believe that a relatively newer device that has come along without some of the drawbacks, but i will admit it has its faults in other places and other applications, is the velour and crochet or velcro. If this had come around before the zipper it may have been a tough sell for many applications. We may not have so many jackets with zippers, pants would definitely not have zippers, and most footwear probably wouldn't either.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You forget: it was the best product at the time. Since Mike pushes so hard on what I call "innovation by paint color", it would seem that development would stop as more companies run to market with the best current product with little investment in development, as development money would be almost entirely lost when you bring a new unpatent product to market.

    Effectively, Mike wants the best of both world, but the path described typically is the worst of both instead. Take away the incentive to invest, and encourage nothing but cheap replication (with a new paint color)

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 3:12pm

    Next video should be about how Moses patented the ark and set boatmaking back 1000 years.


    hahaha

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Thanks!

    It's simplified by removing the details that would tell a different story.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 4:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The incentive to invest? Like, oh, creating a superior product and succeeding in the market?

    And, no, the c-curity wasn't the "best product at the time," since it didn't actually fulfill any niche or...work correctly, and therefore failed in the market. Keep on trying to explain why anyone would want to copy it.

     

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  29.  
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    nasch (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 4:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Known: innovation around the device was very slow while the patent was being enforced.

    Speculation: anything else.

    Your idea seems to be that it would have been no worse without patents, but you don't seem to have any scenario in which the market in substantially improved by patents. On the other hand, the possibility exists that the market could have been much better without patents.

    I can't see any reason to think both activities would not take place in the absence of patents: copycats doing the exact same product (but probably not as well, because that's generally the way of copycats), and innovators improving on it. But feel free to try to convince us that innovation will only occur with patent protection.

     

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  30.  
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    chris (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    as more companies run to market with the best current product with little investment in development, as development money would be almost entirely lost when you bring a new unpatent product to market.

    of course, that's why you only invest the absolute minimum and go to market as early as possible. if you release your product designs under an open license that requires replicas to carry attributions to you and your company, and for all improvements to the design to be released under a similar license. any research that went into the product then serves as prior art to prevent someone from using IP laws to hijack your invention.

    you can enjoy good margins while the product is unique and when the cheap replicas arrive you can adjust your pricing and use your status as the original innovator as to keep your product unique.

    you can then listen to the market for feedback and watch what your imitators are doing to differentiate themselves. if they make a marginal improvement on your original design, you can copy it as well, thanks to the open license.

    even if your competitors don't improve your design, you can leverage your brand, your reputation, your customer service, and other differentiators to maintain an advantage while you work on your next iteration. you can also learn from your competitors successes and mistakes and learn which vendors, suppliers and partners can make a difference for you.

    the arduino and the many replicas and specialized iterations of it are a good example of this process. the designs are open and free and anyone can take them to china and have them made. in the wake of the original arduino, tons of direct competitors, after market accessories, niche/specialty applications have sprouted up, creating a vibrant marketplace for small scale micro-controllers.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 5:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That is true today mostly because of protection against blatant copying of unique new products. However, if that time frame is short, then the market advantage is also short, which leads to there being a very short time to collect of the investment made to develop the product. The second, third, and so on players in the market have almost no development costs, and thus can sell the product for significantly less, gaining them marketshare quickly.

    Please example the market share for generic drugs when they come on the market. It's pretty clear what happens when a product with no development costs goes up against a product pricved to recoup development costs and to pay for future developments.

     

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  32.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 7:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "You forget: it was the best product at the time."

    Well, yeah. They had the patent. Good luck trying to swim up that stream.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Bob Cannon, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 3:55am

    Talon Zippers

    This is such a great story and also points to the need for TENACITY. It took 46 years to move the product from invention to commercial success. Sadly, Talon Zippers is no longer with us.

    I spent the first 10 years of my career with Talon. It was an incredible learning experience on many different levels.

     

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  34.  
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    MattP, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    No talk about how the once proud name lost brand status and lapsed into common descriptive use?

    This is the kind of stuff Monster Cables and Apple dream about in their nightmares!

     

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  35.  
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    Vic kley, Dec 10th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    innovating MM

    Looking at the Innovation/Invention Video was really helpful. You and presumably most of your audience are really young and inexperienced. Of course you and they have done little or no inventing, innovating or creation of a company based on a new technology. You remind me of my son whose wise mouth and certainty of analysis reflect his intelligence , and lack of respect for authority. Qualities that will serve him well after he pays dues big time. Just to be clear the zipper was not innovated, it was just a solution chasing problems - very different. The key to good innovation is a great deal of attention to the real needs of the market. It should be understood that great innovations do not require any invention at all. A case in point the ipod.

     

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  36.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 10th, 2009 @ 1:32pm

    Re: innovating MM

    Looking at the Innovation/Invention Video was really helpful. You and presumably most of your audience are really young and inexperienced.

    Be careful about the assumptions you make.

    Of course you and they have done little or no inventing, innovating or creation of a company based on a new technology.

    I've actually done all three. Why do you assume otherwise?

    Just to be clear the zipper was not innovated, it was just a solution chasing problems - very different.

    Actually, there was a lot of innovation that went into making the zipper a success. Books have been written about it. Obviously, in a two minute video it was tough to go into the details.

    The key to good innovation is a great deal of attention to the real needs of the market. It should be understood that great innovations do not require any invention at all. A case in point the ipod.

    Indeed. We absolutely agree on that, and I've discussed that in the past. I'm not sure why you think we disagree.

    Could you explain further? Thanks!

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    Re: Re: bootstrapping

    Your comment brings up an interesting point. Since the zipper was the culmination of a number of cycles of invention, not the initiator of innovation, how did patenting of the zipper "stop" or even "slow" innovation of zippers?

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2009 @ 8:46am

    Culmination...

    Amazing. The zipper is (finally) invented in 1914 and patented in 1917, after only roughly sixty years of development.

    Couple of interesting points:

    There was only one significant invention related to the zipper after the 1917 patent.

    The zipper was a solution looking for a problem. It took decades to gain acceptance for the zipper. While the ability to get a patent certainly provided enough value to help spur the invention, customers did not exist.

    Question: Why invent (or even innovate) a device for whom there are no customers?

    Answer: Because the inventor's company, or some intelligent person partnered with the inventor, helps create a market for the invention. It can take years or decades to gain market acceptance, but the driver to develop the market is because it increases the value of the good covered by the patent.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Robin Downes, Jan 18th, 2010 @ 5:43pm

    new product

    I can use all the help I can get to market my new product and don't know how to get to the right people. Any advice?
    http://www.fairsharechorecards.com/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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