Understanding Innovation

Horace Dediu explains what innovation is and why we must understand how it differs from novelty, invention, and creation.

Novelty: Something new
Creation: Something new and valuable
Invention: Something new, having potential value through utility
Innovation: Something new and uniquely useful

Dediu goes on to say that not understanding the factors and context which makes a product “innovative” is just as bad as not being able to read or understand numbers. A perfect example illustrating Dediu’s point is an article about Gillette’s new “innovative” ProGlide FlexBall razor.

According to the Journal, Gillette plans to spend $200 million promoting the ProGlide FlexBall, with a campaign that centers on telling people that “the blades miss 20% fewer hairs with each pass and that it can cut each whisker 23 microns shorter — about a quarter of the width of a strand of human hair.”

Even if the new razor is more effective than old ones (which I doubt), a swivel ball that gets facial hair 23 microns shorter isn’t a “moonshot.” It’s not even an across-the-street-shot. It’s a dumb novelty that is meant to trick customers into believing that their old, swivel-free razors are outmoded, and that they should pony up for the new model. And what’s worse is that it will probably work.

The razor industry is the worst — peddling marketing gimmicks as innovations for years. Makes me think of this Onion article from 2004. How prophetic. [via daringfireball]

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