Inventors versus Innovators

iCentral2It seems I am always being asked: ‘What exactly is the difference between an Inventor and an Innovator?’

And more to the point ‘Do we have any Innovators in Wollongong?’

Well for starters the terms are not interchangeable … note to mainstream media.

Certainly an Inventor can also be an Innovator but in fact that is relatively rare and more often Innovators detect other people’s new inventions or ideas and have the nous, and/or access to resources, to commercialize them.

Unfortunately for my home town we can claim a number of well regarded inventors but only a few innovators.

Of course Lawrence Hargrave heads up the queue of local inventors and his pioneering research at Stanwell Park in the 1890s links directly with probably the world’s greatest innovation of the 20th century viz manned flight.

Much more recently the multi-talented locally born Dr Tom Denniss led the charge to harness wave power to generate electricity world-wide. Unfortunately, after 10 years, his prototype wave generator is still rusting away off the coal loader in Port Kembla. Industry sources tell me there are currently over 100 new companies and start-ups still trying to commercialise this new technology, i.e. become innovators not just inventors.

And there are likely many more would-be inventors (like yours truly) beavering away in their backyard garages or home offices in the burbs receiving very little media attention.

However when it comes to identifying true innovators in Wollongong the task is much more difficult.

As it happens I have had the (dubious) pleasure of working with a true pioneer in the transport industry for nearly two decades as a consultant. I went to his eightieth birthday only recently and he is still brighter and more inventive than any one else I know or have ever met. He would not consider himself an innovator … so I will not embarrass him by identifying him publicly (he will know who I mean).

Although I do not know him personally another 80 year old heads up my list of local innovators. And that’s Bruce Gordon the reclusive billionaire (he lives primarily in Bermuda these days) who is now an extremely successful business person and a dominant figure in mainstream media in Australia.

I once heard Mr Gordon deliver an illuminating talk to business leaders, at a luncheon arranged by the WCC, where he explained how he had built the WIN TV network from a single television station to the largest network in the country. It was particularly revealing to me, as a marketer, since it focussed on the importance of distribution channels (the fourth P) … unfortunately I think I was the only attendee who really appreciated what he was saying.

I guess if there is something to learn from these two particular examples it is that innovation takes a long time. Of course we can also hope to see many more innovators to emerge from iAccelerate, the UOW’s business incubator, over the coming years.

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PUBLISHER: Dr Andrew M Connery has been active online since 2001. Andrew completed his PhD at the UOW’s Sydney Business School in 2015 his doctoral dissertation ‘Overcoming Barriers to the Introduction of Perceived Disruptive Innovations in to Rigid Efficient Systems’. A B2B marketing practitioner and SEO/SEM consultant by profession his specialty area is overcoming local search engine bias.

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