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Learning the difference between innovation and invention at Stanford's Startup Garage

There's an interesting article today in Fast Company about Stanford's Startup Garage and its approach to teaching entrepreneurship. In the piece, Stefanos Zenios, PhD, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, describes how a realization ten years ago about the distinction between innovation and invention lead to the creation of the Startup Garage and shares some key lessons from the project-based course.

The Startup Garage teams include students from range of schools and departments at Stanford, including medical students. In the above video, Jeff Tangney, c0-founder and CEO of a the physician professional network Doximity, talks about how the class helped launch his company. In the article, Zenios offers the following advice about developing "disruptive" technologies:

Entrepreneurs fond of using the word "disruptive" to sell their business plan, take heed. You don’t need to turn an industry on its ear to create a product or service that captivates the market. And you could speed up customer buy-in. “I hate the word 'disruptive,'” Zenios says. Working on a hypothesis that 95% of innovations are not disruptive, Zenios posits that most successful ones are merely incremental.

“My favorite example is from the medical field,” Zenios explains. When angioplasty was invented to avoid more invasive bypass surgery, two companies were competing in the space. One captured 90% of the marketshare, not because they invented angioplasty itself, but because they designed an interface for the scope that was more user-friendly. “The whole point is find an unmet need and address it. If you can address it by building incrementally or with something your customers are already using or already used to, you won’t get resistance,” Zenios says.

Zenios goes on to discuss how "two old ideas coming together for the first time" can be more powerful than a new idea and why drive and resilience can't be taught.

Previously: Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions on health-care innovation and Ask Stanford Med: Stefanos Zenios taking questions on health-care innovation and entrepreneurship

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