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Invention and innovation: An introduction
Invention and innovation: An introduction

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5.1 Introduction to key concepts

Before I go any further I will establish the meaning of some of the key concepts that you will encounter throughout this unit.

The key concepts elaborated in this unit are:

  • inventor

  • invention

  • design

  • product champion

  • entrepreneur

  • improver

  • innovation

  • dominant design

  • robust design

  • lean design

  • radical innovation

  • incremental innovation

  • sustaining innovation

  • disruptive innovation

  • process innovation

  • diffusion and suppression

  • intellectual property and patents.

Although innovation is the term applied to one particular stage, it is also common to talk about the whole process from invention to diffusion as the innovation process.

To illustrate these concepts I will use the example of a significant invention with which you are familiar and that has come to symbolise the inspired moment at the heart of invention – the electric light. This example also illustrates the range of factors behind the success of one of the most famous inventors of all time, Thomas Edison. The irony, as you will discover, is that there was no clear ‘Eureka!’ moment in this invention. It was the product of sheer hard work and demonstrated Edison's famous saying in a newspaper interview, ‘Genius is 1 per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration’.