The Relationship Between Creativity and Innovation

In business and the media, the words creativity and innovation are used almost interchangeably. Some people believe you have to be creative in order to create innovative things. Others would say, without innovative thinking there is no creativity. Both points of view are perfectly logical, but neither explains the relationship (or interrelationship) between the concepts we call creativity and innovation.

 To begin with, creativity and innovation are not synonymous; there is a clear and important distinction between them. It is especially critical for businesses to understand this distinction before instituting a new organization-wide innovation imitative.

Before discussing this distinction, however, it is important to note that creativity is a mental ability anyone is capable of, not just the artists among us. When most of us think of creative individuals, we often point out a special talent such as the ability to draw, paint, sculpt, write, play music, sing, dance, etc. Creativity is much more than winning Mother Nature’s genetic lottery for artistic ability. Creative potential exists in all of us.

Creativity is most often defined as the mental ability to conceptualize (imagine) new, unusual or unique ideas, to see the new connection between seemingly random or unrelated things.

Innovation on the other hand, is defined as the process that transforms those forward-looking new ideas into real world (commercial) products, services, or processes of enhanced value. The result of such a transformation can be incremental, evolutionary or radical in its impact on the status quo. In other words, it can represent a natural step forward in a concept’s development, a leap to the next generation of that concept, or a completely new and different way of doing something altogether.

If we use Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple and his company as an example, we could say that Steve Jobs is creative because he has the forward-thinking ability to imagine new ideas for products, and also to see new connections between different things (such as combining an iPod, the iTunes store, an Internet browser, a camera, a GPS, and a cell phone to create the iPhone).

Apple the company is innovative in the manner in which they interpret and execute those forward-thinking ideas to create inspired, highly desirable products of value. The company’s innovation-driven culture continuously strives to elevate the aesthetics, functionality and simplicity of their product design to museum quality levels.

Why is this distinction between creativity and innovation important?

Because it is impossible to develop a truly innovative organization if creativity is ignored or stifled. And likewise, without effective processes in place to transform creative ideas into practical, real world, value added application, creativity is of no commercial value whatsoever.

Once you understand the distinction between creativity and innovation, the road to success begins by liberating, nurturing and inspiring all the creative capital in your organization.

Liberate creativity, and watch innovation flow.

2 Responses to The Relationship Between Creativity and Innovation

  1. Great post. I like the way that you address this distinction. We recently attended the incentive 2 innovate conference in New York and learned a great deal about how companies today are using prizes to promote innovation. The prize is the incentive, and as you put it: creation is liberated, and innovation flows.

    Reply

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