Novelty is not innovation

I found this very sound understanding with the Innovative Business post I wrote before. It was Simon Sinek the author of ‘Start with Why’, when he pointed out the same misconception that almost every businesses experienced. The misconception between innovation and just another new idea. Mr Sinek called it novelty -well, that’s a good word to distinguish it-, meanwhile I did not have a word for the term.

In his book, Mr Sinek pointed out the example of Motorolla RAZR, the newest entry to the mobile phone market at the time. The press released mentioned the product “in a major innovation in design and engineering”. The hype was there for a while, celebrities flashing the mobile phone on red carpet, stock price rising up and over-confident CEO statement.

Sadly, after a while the very CEO who made a boasting statement of Motorolla new invention was ousted from his office. The company stock was traded at lower price. Motorolla once again struggled to get its share in mobile phone market. As Mr Sinek pointed out, this is just another example of company that confused between innovation and novelty.

Another example given by Mr Sinek is Colgate. In 1970s there were only two types of Colgate toothpaste. As competitors started to enter the toothpaste industry. Colgate was forced to ‘innovate’ its product offering. As a result, there are many newly invented types of Colgate toothpaste. From Whitening to Tartar controls. Thanks to all this innovation, now it become so confusing to choose a toothpaste for yourself.

Mr Sinek pointed out what a real innovation like. I think his definition is probably the best that I have ever read.

He said, “Real innovation changes the course of industries or even society”. Examples are the light bulb, the microwave oven, the fax machine, and iTunes.

The iTunes has made listening to music easier than before. In the pre-iTunes world, the process of owning a song is like this. First, you’d heard a song on radio and you found out who the musician is, you’d drive to your neighborhood record stores, you’d search for the record -and if it is still in stock- you’d bought it, bring it back home, put on your player, and listen to the song.

In iTunes world, hear the song, download, then listen to it.

My personal favorite part of iTunes is that you only buy a song that you like at lower price rather than buying the whole album, which is more expensive.

As iTunes stormed music industry, there are so many flagship record stores that need to close down their businesses.


That’s what an innovation is.




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