Al Gross and the difference between invention and innovation

According to Peter Denning

An innovation is a transformation of practice in a community. It is not the same as the invention of a new idea or object. The real work of innovation is in the transformation of practice.

Consider the case of Al Gross

The pioneer nonpareil of wireless telecommunications is Al Gross. In 1938, he invented the walkie-talkie. In 1948, he pioneered Citizens’ Band (CB) radio. In 1949, he invented the telephone pager. His other inventions include the basics of cordless and cellular telephony.

Gross was too far ahead of his time to cash in on his inventions: his patents expired long before the public was ready for CB radio, cell phones and pagers. But his love of the work outweighs any regrets: he always smiles when he says, “If I still had the patents on my inventions, Bill Gates would have to stand aside for me.”

According to Buckminster Fuller

Very frequently I hear or read of my artifacts adjudged by critics as being “failures,” because I did not get them into mass-production and “make money with them.” Such money-making-as-criteria-of-success critics do not realize that money-making was never my goal. I learned very early and painfully that you have to decide at the outset whether you are trying to make money or to make sense, as they are mutually exclusive.

Mark Trail

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