Home Innovation Insights

Michelle Foster
March 14, 2013

Invention vs. Innovation

I had an opportunity to watch a documentary on Steve Jobs while stuck in a hotel room recently. The show detailed how, as Apple CEO, Steve Jobs oversaw the development of the Apple II series, Apple Lisa, and Macintosh; then during his second stint as Apple CEO he masterminded the wildly successful iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iTunes store. Yet, for as ingenious and successful as these products and services are, Jobs is not credited with being their inventor. Instead he is universally touted as a visionary innovator. I don’t think I fully appreciated the difference between these concepts until I started working at Home Innovation Research Labs.

The difference between invention and innovation is execution. Featured in the documentary was entrepreneur Tom Grasty, who defines invention as the creation of a product or process for the first time. Invention creates an entirely new market that did not previously exist. Innovation, on the other hand Grasty explains, is placing an existing product or process into a new context. Innovation is the art and science of servicing needs that have been previously overlooked.

Steve Jobs didn’t invent the portable music player — Sony’s Walkman debuted 22 years earlier. Nor did he invent the MP3 player which was mass-produced commercially in 1997, four years before the first generation iPod. Napster and several others invented online music sharing platforms, not iTunes. Jobs revolutionized the music industry and how millions of people purchase and listen to music without inventing a thing. Instead he took previous inventions and improved upon them so significantly that you can’t help wanting one. He was a masterful innovator and the iPod is oft-cited as innovation at its best providing its users versatility previously unimagined — it is easy to use, beautifully designed, and connects to a user-friendly platform that effortlessly updates your music across various devices.

Invention vs. innovation. It’s an important distinction and one that goes a long way to explaining the value proposition of the services offered by Home Innovation Research Labs. Founded in 1964 and previously known as the NAHB Research Center, Home Innovation Labs has a mission to remove barriers to innovation for the residential construction industry. Ours is an industry that doesn’t necessarily need more inventions. After all, every year plenty of new building products and technologies are invented but fail to achieve commercial success. Worse yet are new products or building systems that gain some commercial traction, are bought and used by builders and contractors, but fail to perform or are difficult to install.

As much as the housing industry needs innovation, housing product and technology innovations lag behind most every other industry. This is where Home Innovation Labs helps our clients succeed. We offer a comprehensive suite of services and an interdisciplinary research approach to help you understand your unique selling proposition; align your products and ideas to the key strategic focus of your enterprise; define and understand the target customer segment; develop a plan for execution; and define the business value. We understand that your product innovations must be aligned with the existing market landscape and your company's place in that marketplace.

Our interdisciplinary approach is simple. Through market research we strive to bring manufacturers closer to their customers, which helps bring better products to the marketplace. Through certification and testing, we ensure products meet code specifications and address issues before they go to market. But we are so much more than just a product testing laboratory. We can test building systems and even entire houses. Our services are comprehensive, yet singularly focused on the residential industry.

There has never been a better time to see what we can do for you. As we've all seen in recent headlines, the housing market is picking up steam nationwide. But beyond the headlines we see a whole new landscape for builders and product manufacturers. More stringent building codes. More sophisticated products and technologies. Changing consumer demographics. Further advances in building science. Now is the time to make sure you are positioned properly to take advantage of the brighter housing forecast.

Innovation is the catalyst to growth. Home Innovation Research Labs has a dedicated and expert staff ready to make innovation work for you. Let us help you bring the housing industry's next "iPod" successfully into the market.

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Bryan White
Wednesday, January 4, 2017 2:23 PM
"How can HIRL help the small inventor bring new technology to market? How can an inventor partner with HIRL to advance new ideas, solution and products?"