Published On : 22nd April, 2021
Innovation is the buzz-word today. If quality was the word that was mostly used by corporates or someone selling something to you, Innovation is the word for 21’st century. Everyone from builders to pastry shops, from restaurants to consumer durables, from entertainment electronics to clothing use the word Innovation somewhere in their offerings. In India the latest hip thing amongst the corporates is Innovation. Quality was easy to understand word. What it said was what was meant. Not so with Innovation.
Innovation is often confused with creativity, ideas, invention, patents, and many other similar words. It is true that all these words have very specific meaning when it comes to Innovation, but what is not true is equating these words with Innovation. Being creative does not mean being innovative. Your capacity to generate ideas does not ensure that you can profit from them. Inventions are not always worth. Patents are listed in annual reports of the companies, but at the same time companies are silent on the tangible value these patents generate.
I come across many executives who say that their organizations need to be creative. They feel that being creative would mean, being innovative. They also talk of out-of-box thinking and Ideas. They feel that out-of-the-box thinking and generating fantastic ideas would create value for their organizations. The thinking is not false, but at the same time it is not completely true.
There is a huge difference between Creativity and Innovation. Creativity means to create. To create, originate, bring into being. It is a term that is characterized by originality and imagination. Talking about Idea it is a thought, a plan or a method. It is not uncommon to see the great disparity between the number of ideas that get generated and the number of ideas that finally make it to become a usable, profitable product or service. Creativity is the prerequisite for innovation and Ideas is the starting point. Ideas cannot be generated without being creative. Innovation starts from this point onwards after you have had an idea.
While browsing I came across some websites which listed absurd, weird, humorous patents. It set me thinking again in this context of creativity and innovation. These patents are evidences of tremendous creativity of the patent holder, the creator of these inventions. These patents remind us of the huge effort that was wasted in solving a problem imagined by the inventor.
It was fun browsing these websites. It was interesting to know how many people take serious efforts to come up with something interesting. I am listing here a few of these inventions here. Remember the inventions listed here are valid patents. To see more of these patents you can visit websites such as www.delphion.com/gallery, www.bpmlegal.com/weird.html, http://totallyabsurd.com. Still weirder, nearly x-rated patents are available on http://www.macstravic.com/patents/. Reading through these patents, their functions will make you laugh, enjoy a few light moments. But on serious introspection you would come to realize the waste
Talk of sibling rivalry and here is a patent to resolve it – a portable automobile partition. Driving mommas need not worry anymore about their children in backseat as they would be comfortably separated. Are you angry with the law that disallows smoking in public or you want to hide the smoky smell from your wife or girlfriend. Here is a solution – A Smokers Hat which is battery powered, sucks the smoke, deodorizes it and ionizes it before emitting it out.
Cannot hold your desire when you see food? Try this Anti-Eating Mouth Cage. The cage is designed in such a way it allows you to breathe and speak but not to eat. There is a food barrier that is mounted on your face. You cannot even cheat it, as it is locked on to your head.
For the bird lovers there is a Bird Diaper. It features an enclosed pouch for receiving and containing excrements and apertures to accommodate wings and tails.
There are numerous of these inventions which are patented and were once the outcome of creative juices of a creator. Beyond that they were never useful, to anyone. These people not only invented these objects but were optimistic enough to complete the tedious, time consuming patenting process.
Often it is said that we Indian’s are extremely creative. Yes creative we are. Be it music, dance, drama, arts of different kinds. We all have great ideas. Do we not often advise the prime minister of India on what should be done? Do we not keep advising people who narrate something? Yes, we are creative. The problem is that we the creative people often leave it to someone else to think about implementation. The situation is not very different when it comes to businesses. It is professed that Indian businesses will be like never before, if they hire more creative people. If that were to be the solution then why are we not innovative? Why our businesses still thrive on low cost advantage? Why does the software industry of which we are so proud of have not been able to produce a single product which is sold over the counter across the world and is a leader in its own category? The answer to this problem is that we have creative people, we have people with ideas, but when it comes to generating value from an idea, there is no one available.
Innovation is or can be said to be Innovation when creativity and ideas are exploited effectively to create tangible value for the organization or society. Creativity is as a soft skill while innovation is more concrete. Innovation is the conversion of ideas into revenue sources and that is the essence. It is all about results.
To achieve innovation, particularly in an organizational context, there has to be a process. An Innovation course of action is one that transcends myriad departments and disciplines and flows in a single forceful stream cutting across boundaries and taking everyone with it.