An Invention is Not a Synonym of Innovation

Inventors are always coming up with ideas. One thing we’ve noticed in our work with entrepreneurs, is that they sometimes believe an invention is an innovation. But in our view, an innovation is a bit like the proverbial tree falling in the forest. If it doesn’t solve someone’s problem, it’s probably not really an innovation at all. Just an invention in search of a home.

Why does this matter? It matters because of the effort required to convince someone to buy it, or to use it. Convincing someone to buy a product or service they don’t want is push marketing. And push marketing is the hardest kind of marketing there is. It’s that telemarketer that calls you during dinner to convince you that you want to buy auto insurance, when you don’t even own a car. It’s trying to convince someone that they want something they haven’t even been looking for.

On the other hand, pull marketing is creating something that the buyer or user already wants. Something that solves a problem. Something that makes their life easier. Something that they’ve been wishing for, hoping for, or dreaming of. It’s an invention that answers the question, “If only I had a… [Enter Solution Here]”.

How can you know if your invention is really an innovation? Don’t ask your mom (she’ll either lavish you with unfounded praise, or tell you to ‘smarten up’.) Instead, validate with customers. Real ones. Not your friends. Do this before you build the thing. Target carefully, ask people who are your identified and intended audience, and see what they have to say. Accept their advice, and you’ll know whether you have an innovation on your hands, or just an invention.

This weekend we’ll be judging entrepreneurs’ pitches at Canada’s Business Model Competition – an event specifically built around separating inventions from innovations using Osterwalder & Pigneur’s Business Model Canvas. It’s a tool you can use, too. So before you call yourself an innovator, go out and validate, validate, validate – and make sure you’re not just an inventor. And if you need help asking hard questions, let us know. We can help.

Public judging of the finals takes place Saturday afternoon. Hope to see you there!

Megann and Steve


It’s Not Too Late – Join us at ProductCamp Atlantic!

productcampatlantic logo medium     Wow, we’re really excited at the response we’re getting to our ProductCamp initiative. Along with our co-organizers, we’ve been hearing great things, and registrations continue to grow. This Saturday, product management enthusiasts from our region will gather to share ideas, solve problems, and get energized and inspired. If this is like any of the other ProductCamps we’ve attended, healthy debates might even ensue. Interested in getting involved with ProductCamp? There are lots of ways you or your connections can participate:

Sponsor – we’re looking for sponsors large and small who will assist with things like coffee and lunch. Innovacorp and Nautel were our first sponsors to sign on, and you can see others at the website. It is strictly a not-for-profit event, so sponsorship dollars go to cover travel costs for speakers, food, or other conference costs.

Send or Attend – we’d love to see you there, or alternatively product managers, developers, or other contacts that you think could benefit. Anyone who is interested in product management and product development (including suppliers) is welcome.

Share your Time – volunteers are welcome and appreciated – helping manage check-in, setting up and tearing down on the day, checking on guest speakers to be sure they have everything they need. Many hands make light work, as they say!

Speak or Suggest – if you have topics you’d like to see covered, let us know. If you have a topic you might consider presenting, even better – just let us know. The community will vote and their selections will become part of the program.

Spread the word – if you would be so kind as to communicate to your networks, it would be fantastic. @PCampAtlantic or on LinkedIn

We hope to see you there!

Megann and Steve