Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Sep 29, 2014

'Innovation' and 'invention' have been mixed up: Finch

SPIKES ASIA - Invention is the first iteration of something. Innovation is a way of doing things differently. And understanding the difference is crucial to success, according to Emad Tahtouh, director of applied technology at Finch.

Tahtouh's slide reads,
Tahtouh's slide reads, "The future: This slide intentionally left blank."

Please see all of our Spikes Asia 2014 coverage here

Understanding the difference between invention and innovation will train your mind to not accept impossibility but to realise that possibility happens in incremental steps, Tahtouh said in his Friday address as president of the Innovation Jury at Spikes Asia 2014.

The important thing to consider is the etymology of the word innovation, because people are still clearly associating innovation with being hi-tech. “It's a mistake to assume that innovation must contain high-tech components," he said. "It simply means the application of science to a process."

Historically, society has been conditioned to accept the impossibility of a quantum leap. As a whole, once people learn that something is not possible, they are resigned to that fact. But this is a mistake. "Things that aren't possible today, may very well be possible tomorrow," he said.

Take Leonardo da Vinci for example. His ideas was so far ahead of his time, they would not have been realised in his lifetime. He designed the tank and helicopter without any possibiliy of making those at that time, but now these inventions are obviously prevalent everywhere.

Other key takeaways of Tahtouh's talk included:

  • You find inspiration everywhere, even in nature.
  • Comments on your work are always fun, because the criticisms turn into improvements. People arguing about what seem to be ludricrous details is actually what innovation is all about.
  • Uber is a great example of not accepting that the experience of taxi travel cannot be improved upon. Five years ago was the perfect time to develop the idea as the technology was there to make it possible. Ten years ago, the same idea would have been deemed impossible as the the technology was inaccessible then.
  • In the context of advertising and marketing, innovation means delivering a message in a campaign so wondrously that the technology behind it is hidden, like the British Airways "lookup" campaign. It's all about delivering the most optimal message using the simplest form of technology.
  • The ideas you present where you say 'I have the answers to everything' are not real innovation. When you go into the unknown you are scared out of your mind. If you are waking up at 3 am just to see if everything is still working, you probably are on to something good.
  • Our own industry is taking the piss out of what we are doing with "innovation". In fact, we are making everything so complicated that we really need to start cutting that back to think more about the idea and talk less about the technical execution.

Campaign's observation: A rather clinical delivery of an exciting concept, but Tahthou also tries to hammer home the point that measured doses of innovation is the foundation for invention with his presentation style. His points seem well suited to an industry that tends to steer towards extremes; people either go gaga over the wondrosity of technology without applying it to communications, or wax lyrical about the superficial aspects of a tech-driven campaign without explaining how it actually works. We hope that folks successfully marry the two more often so we have more newsworthy stuff to write about.


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