Thursday, September 8, 2005

Invent or Innovate--what we need are workable solutions for targeted problems

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, September 08, 2005

Learning & Innovation
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Invent or Innovate--what we need are workable solutions for targeted problems

Innovation seems to be a very tricky topic. Let's hear it from two of our readers, Rico Belmonte and Bob Embry. Earlier Rico quoted Peter Drucker: "Invention is creating something new and original like devices or processes, innovation is putting the invention to commercial use. Thus, invention is technology and innovation is commerce."

Bob replied saying that Drucker points out that an innovation can be political, social, or economic, a change that creates a new dimension of performance. Bob said he is fairly familiar with Drucker's work (over 40 years of it) and that he doesn't remember Drucker using the term commercialization in connection with innovation.

A rejoinder from Rico: Here is what Peter Drucker actually wrote in his book "Innovation and Entrepreneurship."

. "Entrepreneurs innovate. Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. It is the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth. Innovation, indeed, creates a resource. There is no such thing as a "resource" until man finds a use for something in nature and thus endows it with economic value."

. "Innovation, then, is an economic or social rather than a technical term. It can be defined the way J. B. Say defined entrepreneurship, as changing the yield of resources. Or, as a modern economist would tend to do, it can be defined in demand terms rather than in supply terms, that is, as changing the value and satisfaction obtained from resources by the consumer."

. "Systematic innovation therefore consists in the purposeful and organized search for changes, and in the systematic analysis of the opportunities such changes might offer for economic or social innovation."

To summarize his points, innovation has to do more with economics and entrepreneurship than technology. Of course for innovation to have an impact to the economy and society in general, it has to be commercialized. Whether or not he actually said "innovation is commerce" is probably not as important as the central idea that innovation is closely related to entrepreneurship (and commerce necessarily).

Bob's reply is in his homepage:

I read this newsclip somewhere in the Internet: On Tuesday night, as the city started to lose all hope, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin lamented that water from Lake Pontchartrain continued to flow into the city because promised attempts to repair the busted 17th Street Canal with giant sandbags never materialized. He should've known that stopping the flood wouldn't work. That plan was like so many that came before it: an
innovative but impossible solution to an intractable problem.

My final take here is in this story about a Cup of Coffee: A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old University of Notre Dame professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, some plain-looking and some expensive and exquisite, telling them to help themselves to hot coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you
consciously went for the better cups and are eyeing each other's cups. Now, if Life is coffee, then the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, but the quality of Life doesn't change. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee in it."

We'll have more on innovation next columns. Let us hear it from my favorite author and friend, Elaine Dundon (Seeds of Innovation).

BIG THANKS to kind-hearted ladies Pearl Catahan, Gigie Penalosa and Venus Tiamzon (Virginia, USA) for their contribution to RCQCNorth's Teacher Training Program for elementary school teachers in Quezon City. We are now undertaking Adopt-A- Classroom Program for Tatalon Elementary School. We still need 35 classroom guardians. To volunteer, please send email to or call 0917-899-6653.

(Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corporation and RCQCNorth. Please send feedback to

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