One semifinalist of the Mine Tailing Reprocessing challenge shares with us his experience and thoughts about what it means to be an innovator and the differences between innovation vs invention. Jonathan Brown, the business owner of the Las Vegas-based Minerals LCC, a company that provides consulting services with the domestic and international mining industry. With a vast experience around environmental engineering in companies like Kinross Gold Corporation. The challenge he participated in was very complex since mine tailing reprocessing has always been a field of interest for those mining companies that aim to extract value from the large amount of waste generated from their operations and minimize the environmental impact and risks.
Innovation VS Invention: Differences and Value
Often misinterpreted innovation has come to be thought of as being something new that never existed before when actually it can involve both invention (something new), or an improvement to something that already exists. People that invent new products, processes, or ideas are inventors. An innovator is a broader term that includes both inventors and those that make improvements to existing things.
To better understand this subtle but important difference please consider the following:
Here are a few examples of inventors and their invention:
- Alexander Graham Bell – the telephone
- Thomas Edison – the light bulb
- Samuel Morse – the telegraph
Here is a list of innovators and their improvements
- IBM – took the telephone and made it mobile
- Nick Holonyak Jr. (GE engineer) – took the light bulb and came up with LED lights
- Guglielmo Marconi – took the telegraph and made it wireless
Is Jonathan an inventor or an innovator?
Am I an inventor or an innovator? Based on my self-imposed evaluation I am an innovator. According to the U.S. Patent Office, I am not an inventor, at least not yet. At best, my only attempt to patent an idea was rejected for not being of sufficient novelty when compared to something patented in the late 1800s.
The good news is that based on the rejection of my idea by the U.S. Patent Office I am by definition an innovator and my idea was merely a modification of a patented idea that may or may not have the ability to generate a profit when marked. That better idea, like so many others that I have generated over the years, has never matured into innovation because I never took it to market and generated a profit. An idea by itself is never an invention or an innovation if it has not been taken to market and turned into some form of benefit.
Turning innovation into a reality
My most recent attempt to show my creative nature occurred when I participated in Ennomotive’s “Mine Tailing Reprocessing” Challenge. As one of five semifinalists out of a large number of contestants, I felt more and more like I was on the way to finally create an innovation. Although my idea was not selected as the finalist my longtime dream of having created an innovation finally came true when in March of 2020 I received a monetary prize for my idea. Not the top prize, but certainly a feeling inside me that is priceless.
So, to my fellow dreamers and creators I say the following:
- If you want to be an inventor: invent something that does not presently exist.
- If you want to be an innovator do or make something different than what has been done or made.
- But if you want to be an innovator, create something that is better, faster, cheap, and kinder to the environment than what is currently available and that someone wants.
Finally, I say: NEVER, EVER GIVE UP!