Invent, Innovate, Improve: you need to know the difference

Are you creative? Yes, you are – we all are (with very few exceptions). Other apes copy exactly (they ‘ape’ each other) whereas humans do not. We imitate approximately, allowing for accidents, mistakes and changes. Which makes us The Creative Ape.

However, there are different types of creativity. Each has a role, but some are more valued.

1. Invention: new, creative ideas. Everyone can have them. Brainstorming – either in groups or, for better results, alone – is one way to invent. But ideas are smoke; their very ubiquitousness means they are not valuable. Even computers can invent – but it takes a person to recognise the potential and, more importantly, innovate.

2. Innovation: the implementation of new ideas. This is far tougher, and splits the entrepreneurs from the rest of us. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s just a successful project delivery, either – true innovations have staying power. They are as much about the ongoing service as the original go-live.

3. Improvement: most established businesses think in terms of improving their existing business, rather than inventing new businesses and truly innovating. This is a focus on better, cheaper, faster, and has limited power. McDonalds has nailed the speed and efficacy of its business. There’s little more value to squeeze from the fast food market. So it has to re-invent itself and innovate – or else someone else will.

If a (relatively) simple market like fast food needs regular re-invention, how much more potential must there be to truly innovate in the complex, messy, human world of professional and legal services. 

Not just improve: truly, radically re-build. Because we don’t ‘ape’, we innovate.


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