Creativity involves the creation of a goal-directed novelty. Creativity results in the purposeful production of new things, either ideas or physical objects; the creative process or creative thinking is the psychological means whereby such novelty is brought about. Assuming that the individual’s purpose and meaning is critical in creative production necessitates that one cannot be called “creative” if one creates something new by accident. The consequent utilization of that accidental novelty might comprise processes that we could label as creative. The initial “discovery” did not, according to the delineation assumed here, come about through the creative process. It is normally not useful to contain value in this definition. Defining creativity as the production of novel products that are of value (no matter how one defines value) causes in complexities that represent the definition unusable. The invention process covers all efforts aimed at creating new ideas and getting them to work. Most important, the value of some product can change over time, which means that, if we take account of value in our definition of creative, the products or persons that one generation classifies as creative might not be so classified by the next. That prospect means that our database would be constantly shifting as we tried to mature our interpretation of creativity and associated concepts—an unacceptable set of circumstances.
Innovation involves a product that meets some benchmarks beyond those of intention and novelty; an innovation is a new product that serves some objective. It is here that questions of value become important. Building on the definition of creativity just given, an innovation is a new product that was intentionally produced to achieve some purpose and that succeeds, to a scale that is adequate, in doing so. Design is the process whereby innovation is brought about. So the design process encompasses creativity (the generation of novelty) as well as something more (the correction of that novelty so that it serves some specific purpose).
Innovation, design, and invention are directly related concepts; an invention is also a novel product that has been intentionally developed to achieve some purpose (that is, an invention is also an innovation as defined above). As opposed to innovation the term invention was regarded in the early 19th century as a positive attribute of an endeavor or product. Law protected inventions and patents were issues on the name of the inventor.
But an invention is the first innovation within some class of objects. In other words, a new member of an already existing category of objects is an innovation, but the first of the objects within that category is an invention. The invention process covers all efforts aimed at creating new ideas and getting them to work. The cognitive, conative, and affective processes of the mind are the bases for our perceptions and for our sorting, synthesizing, categorizing, ignoring, discarding and recombining all our sensory input into new configurations.
So, for example, it seems sensible to say the following of the Wright brothers:
- they invented the airplane
- they designed the first airplane, and
- they designed an airplane.
The individuals who successfully followed the Wrights only succeeded in designing airplanes. Those individuals may have invented things in their work-components of their successful airplanes but they did not invent the airplane. The airplane—or any artifact—can only be invented once.
Thus, the processes of invention and innovation might be the same, excepting the fact that the former results in production of the first of some class of objects (i.e., the first airplane) while the latter results in additional members of the previously populated category (i.e., other airplanes). It is an empirical question as to whether the process of invention is the same as the process of innovation. Experience provides the qualities of the prototypes we employ for interpreting the present. That is, is the same process (or processes) involved in producing the first member and subsequent members of some class of objects?
Invention is not a random process but is the result of research, study or repeated attempts. Invention must be distinguished from discovery. The latter involves finding or highlighting conditions or facts still unknown. The model of the invention system and the downstream commercialization system make it possible to provide some clear answers to important questions. An invention has to be unique worldwide where as an innovation has to be unique locally, in a certain region or area.
Invention represents a worldwide novelty while innovation is a local novelty. Innovation is an improvement or a refinement while invention is a completely new entity. Society is interested in both innovation and invention as innovation is an economically viable invention that can be exploited in order to generate benefit or to obtain profit.
Innovation is a generic term, whose meaning includes both having a new idea and putting it into action. The definition of innovation used here is appropriate when discussing research in science and engineering. It includes both process and product innovations, in both the goods and services sectors. Finer shadings of these innovations into incremental vs. revolutionary, disruptive vs. sustaining is not pursued in the present discussion.