#45 — Innovate, don't invent

Drift has this principle: “Innovate, don't invent.”

Convoy has a similar value. Grant Goodale (co-founder) explained how they “innovate deliberately.”

At first I didn’t get it.

I thought the whole point of working in a high-growth tech company is to invent a bunch of cool new stuff. I kinda glamorized the mad scientist scribbling on a whiteboard.

The definitions matter. Here’s how author Matt Ridley frames it:

“I deliberately talk about innovation rather than invention because I think
we’ve talked a lot about inventors, about brilliant people who come up with bright
ideas that change the world. I want to talk about innovation, which is the process
by which a bright idea is turned into something practical, reliable and available and
affordable for ordinary people. And that’s a long slog, and it’s a lot of hard work,
and it’s often more important, more difficult than the process of coming up with a
good idea in the first place.”
More here.

Now I’ve come to love this idea.

Here’s why:

  1. It doesn’t say never invent. But it forces us to understand what already exists before deciding. Innovating requires knowing the existing patterns and paradigms. It pushes our default posture toward learning from others and learning from history.

  2. Innovation suggests that success comes from an iterative, long-running process. Invention suggests that we are done once we come up with a great idea.

  3. It forces us to study role models from other domains. If the goal is innovation, we often end up transposing a proven model into a different domain. Concrete role models make it easier for people to visualize the desired state.

This is one I expect to keep top of mind.

What’s your take?

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Dave Rigotti (Co-Founder & CEO at Inflection) talks about the path from marketer to founder, managing energy, asking the right questions, and playing the long game.