2012-09-17, Nerijus Celkonas

Inventors or Innovators

 Inventors or Innovators

Probably, most of you have heard the famous phrase “3i”. There are three types of behavior in new technologies’ business:

Innovator is a person or an organization who‘s one of the first to introduce into reality something better than before.

Imitator – a person acting alike or following a pattern or style set by another.

Idiots – up to you to define this one :)

After 20 years spent in business and working as a business consultant for many years, I‘d like to add the fourth „i“:

Inventor – it‘s a person who makes an improvement upon a machine or a product, or a new process for creating of objects or results.

The main difference between an innovator and an inventor is that innovator is a dreamer and futurist, when inventor is an engineer or a scientist. Probably the best and most recent example of this is Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Apple founders) or Larry Page and Sergej Brin. (Google founders)

Innovators don’t go deep into detail, only to the extent to understand the usability options and, usually, these are people that have entrepreneurial spirit. “The Big picture” is their philosophy of life. 

Inventors are usually scientific people and academic science is what drives them. They can examine details and sundries for days.

As practice shows, when the two meet –progress can’t be stopped.

I prick up my ears every time I hear a phrase – “we’ve got specifics, everyone else has it simple, but not us”.

During my practice I’ve had to consult and change company’s business structures, as well as redesign processes in various different activities.  

When we wanted to automate accounting – a professional was so against it, after all “they’ve got it so differently and it’s too complicated – this is the job requiring lots of know-how”.

When we wanted to redesign an IT company the first note was exactly the same – “we’ve got it differently, we’ve got specifics”.

When I’ve recently asked on biotechnology scientist from Israel could lifescience business be created by an innovator (dreamer) and not scientist (inventor) – I’ve got an unambiguous answer that doesn’t surprise me anymore: “No, we’ve got too much specifics”.


Are those stereotypes or the inability to see the big picture only?

Specialization has long been an area of manufacturing. It’s been known as far back as H. Ford’s conveyer which listed processes and responsibilities according to qualification. Business also has strict division of labor, after all, the “human orchestra” probably wouldn’t manufacture a great product.

During the recent “Lifescience Baltic 2012” conference speaker from Goteborg (Sweden) university, as one of the main points, stressed the necessity of teaching future scientists entrepreneurship skills. Do we want to create an army of “human orchestras”? By the way, the conference wasn’t dominated by businessmen, I got the invitation only incidentally from the scientist I know.


So why make a biotechnitian climb the Empire State Building when it’s the symbol of entrepreneurship?

After all, if a businessman would start advising a scientist how to synthesize protein easier, he would be put into place very quickly. We’ve also got multiple examples where companies managed by scientists stay as niche players.

In my deepest belief, an innovator has to understand the Big Picture and know own business field very deep. He/she has to understand how the cell divides, but doesn’t have to know what triggers mitosis (the division of cells). He/she has to know what makes up an atom, but doesn’t have to reveal Higg’s Boson. He/she has to understand the possibilities of carbon nanotubes, but doesn’t have to engineer nano-bots.

Innovators and futurists even give direction to scientists and don’t let them go berserk (what would every inquisitive academic scientist do).

Innovators have to search for applications of inventors’ results in order to ease and improve all of our lives. And the inventors have to solve impregnable tasks fantasized by the innovators and futurists. History has shown that only by specialization mankind can achieve striking, and what’s most important, fast results.

Author Nerijus Celkonas, CEO Qwekee.com

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