Inventors: Innovators or Tweakers?

Ask people to come up with a list of the great inventors of all time and the names will be familiar. From the past it is likely that you would see Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Louis Pasteur, the Wright brothers… From more present times, names such as Steve Jobs, Tim Berners Lee and Mark Zuckerberg would probably feature heavily. A closer examination of many names on the list would demonstrate that whilst many were indeed original thinkers often those we acknowledge as ‘inventors’ actually borrowed heavily from what went before, synthesising earlier inventions en route to being recognised as game changers. Nonetheless they possessed determination and vision and were successful as innovators, so this by no means diminishes the respect we have for them, their output and their aspirations. Whether you are inventing, innovating or ruthlessly tweaking, without aspirations and big thinking then you are unlikely to get far. Steve Jobs might not have been the inventor of the personal computer but he was certainly the public face of the computing revolution.

Originally published in
Coaching for Innovation – Tools and Techniques for Encouraging New Ideas in the Workplace
2014, Palgrave Macmillan