There are many misconceptions about what inventions and innovations are in the marketplace, but they are two very different things. You can invent something and not do anything with it. Think of Bell Labs which has hundreds of thousands of patented inventions. Many of these inventions are just simply ideas and only some were great enough to be innovative where it changed the marketplace. Or think about Leonardo da Vinci. A great inventor who was ahead of his time, but many of his inventions simply were not practical during his lifetime. Now look at Thomas Edison. While he might have failed hundreds of times trying to invent the light bulb, when he perfected his invention and introduced it in to the marketplace, he created an industry. He was an innovator.
- Innovation isn’t about being new to the marketplace. Look at the iPod from Apple. It wasn’t the first MP3 player in the marketplace. They just did it right and made it simple.
- Innovation isn’t about technology. Look at Starbucks. They’ve created a business model around selling coffee in a comfortable environment and charging a premium. They weren’t the first ones to sell coffee. They just created an environment that people wanted from a coffee shop and marketed in right.
- Innovation isn’t about doing it better. Sometimes you just need to make your product simpler and more affordable. Look at Windows from Microsoft. They opened up a new marketplace where people could afford it and gain access to it easier. They don’t have the best operating system in the marketplace, they just made it easier to use and made it affordable.
- Innovation doesn’t always come out of big research and development budgets. There might be some initial research and development, but you don’t have to go broke in the process. Look at Red Bull. They tapped in to the youth culture in clubs and created their own viral grass roots marketing campaign and turned it in to a multi-billion dollar empire.
- Innovation doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You don’t have to spend a lot when you’re innovating. You can do it very inexpensively and create a new marketplace with low overhead. Ebay, for example, was profitable from almost day one and found a way to connect with the marketplace immediately. Its first year revenues were modest, but it took the earning from its initial years of operation and invested it in to research and development to grow the service.
What do all of these have in common? They’re obviously innovative products and services, but they all made an impact. They all did something that was different in the marketplace that connected with its users.
Sometimes creating that next big thing is just simply doing it better than your competition or making it simpler. Ideas are all around us. Now innovate.This article was contributed by Robert Driscoll, co-founder of Active Garage. You can follow Robert on Twitter at rsdriscoll.