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A100 - Which Comes First: Invention or Innovation?

Machine Design, Penton Publishing, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
November, 2014


This subject has been debated by many over the years.  Few have dared to commit their conversations to writing.  Scripta Manent, Latin for "what is in writing remains," is the likely culprit.  Folks that take risks writing-up early findings on some new area or approach to a scientific study, only later to be proven incorrect, often have difficulity regaining their prior ground.  However, they do push the state of thinking ahead; albeit without reward.

Almost without exception, discussions in my circles over what is now a long period of time, have clearly clearly concluded that innovation comes first.  Invention follows innovation.  Do you agree? 

To better ground the discussion, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines invention as "a product of the imagination; a device/contrivance/process originated after study and experiment." Innovation is defined as "the introduction of something new; a new idea/method/device."

What both words have in common is "new."  Interestingly, the word "new" is not part of Merriam's definition.  But, everything about the definition implies something new.  Can we agree that there is no "old innovation" and no "old invention?"  If so, that bounds the discussion to the number of ways that the word "new" be sliced.

The article investigates three scenarios companies face.  Is the product New-To-The-Company?  Is the product New-To-The-Industry or New-To-The-Market? Or, is the product New-To-The-World?

Which Comes First:  Invention or Innovation?[Machine Design - November 6, 2014] discusses three types of "new" products.  Innovation usually precedes invention, but not always.

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