Innovation or Improvement?…What’s the confusion? 

Why are you not biting my hand off for this?

Many confuse the term innovation and improvement. Much of what an established company will do, is improvement. Incremental changes and improvements to products and/or services which exist in their portfolio already, whereas start-ups generally deal with innovation or “new ways to do things”. However an innovation in the eyes of the start-up may only be an improvement for the established company and this can lead to some problematic positions.

For instance a start-up’s innovative way to monitor diabetes many well be considered just a better way to monitor diabetes over what is currently available by others and as such simply an improvement. This can lead to frustration on the part of the inventor who sees his or her development as groundbreaking. Indeed it may well be, but the expectation is often that the established player should be “champing at the bit” to get their hands on the idea so the inventor finds themselves rather deflated by the attitude of the established potential partner. Now this is not to say the there isn’t enthusiasm for the idea but the structure and process the larger corporations must adhere to may well stifle the appearance of any excitement. Thus immediately a potential conflict situation has arisen. Thus the inventor becomes disillusioned and disappointed with the  large company totally unaware of the effect of their apparent ambivalence is having. Whereas indeed the large corporation could be highly motivated to pursue the idea however the next round of discussions start from an unpromising position.

Managing expectations. 

Many times great ideas which appear truly innovative can fall by the way side as the inventor promises features or performance that are ill-positioned in the eyes of an established company. Entrepreneurs and inventors must do their homework to decide how they wish to present and therefore position themselves in front of a potential partner. What seems like a breakthrough may only be incremental and the the owner of such a technology/product or service must understand the mentality and mind set of the established company in order to establish any sort of deal. The reverse is true as well, Entrepreneurs and inventors tend to be fast moving and expect decisions “on the spot” however this is usually never the case.