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Seeking innovators, not inventors here
As the creative director for AND 1, I managed a design team where everyone but me held an industrial design degree. We would often make the distinction between art and design — where creative effort for the benefit of the artist was art and creative effort for the benefit of the purchaser was design. An example of my thinking on creativity and innovation is available in the second half of this post.
In my new role as an investor in the technology space, I make a similar distinction between inventors and innovators and while I love to meet with inventors, if you are not also an innovator, it is unlikely I will want to be an investor. Here’s why:
Merriam-Webster defines “invent” here as “to produce for the first time through the use of imagination.”
“Innovate” is defined here as “to introduce as or as if new” and “to make changes, to do something in a new way.”
Inductive charging, one type of wireless power transfer, is a cool invention with many potential applications. Wikipedia describes inductive charging here and lists the convenience of charging mobile devices on a “contact plate” instead of with a wire and plug as one of the benefits.
This has recently been popularized by the “powermat” This product is technically innovation as the producers did not invent inductive charging, but the mindset of this product team is more inventor than innovator.
[caption id=”attachment_309" align=”aligncenter” width=”300" caption=”Use the powermat to provide power to a wire…Really?”]
You can see in the image above that one of the ways to use the powermat is a cube with a mini-USB charging cable. This offers zero marginal improvement for the customer over a traditional wired charging experience, but it utilizes the inductive charge capability of the mat. — inventor mission accomplished. In general, the powermat is not better than a well organized approach to the wired solution like this box.
[caption id=”attachment_310" align=”aligncenter” width=”300" caption=”the “powerbox” “]
Alternatively, the video at the bottom of this post illustrates an understanding of the consumer and if integrated into a line of furniture would create an entire new experience and offer significant utility. Thanks to Darren Murph at engadget for bringing this to my attention with this article and including links to a full “how to.”
Inventors create technology for the first time through unprecedented imaginative effort. Because inventors create things that have never been seen before, value accrues to the first person or team to make the technology work and the process is driven by the original vision. Innovators introduce concepts “as if new” implying iteration and the integration of external data — such as from consumers — and value accrues to the first person to discover product-market fit. Inventors tell the market what they have while innovators listen to the market and deliver what it asks them to create.
If you are an innovator or an inventor or both, I hope you will continue this in the comments.