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Creativity or Innovation

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

The two words are often used together and interchangeably but they are two very different sides of the same coin..

Creativity is very much around the process of generating new ideas and coming up with creative solutions to problems whereas innovation is the process through which a creative solution is transformed into a fully developed product, service or process. According to the Encarta World English Dictionary Creativity is:

The ability to use the imagination to develop new

and original ideas or things.

Ability likewise is defined as ‘the possession of skill or competence’ and since skills and competences can be learned and developed through training it follows that the process of creativity is one that can be taught and/or developed. Therefore we can say that the competence to use ones imagination to develop new ideas is a skill like any other that we can all develop through training and hone through practice. Creativity flows more abundantly the more it is used and it is absolutely not true that some people are creative and others are not. Creativity is like a muscle; when used and exercised it grows and develops, when neglected it wastes away.

Whilst individuals may differ in terms of their preferred creative style, there is strong evidence to support the view that everyone has the latent capability for creative problem-solving. Unfortunately, a variety of individual inhibitions and external social and environmental pressures combine and accumulate over time to place restrictions on the exercise of this creative potential. The issue in managing this stage is thus to create the condition under which this can flourish and contribute to effective innovation.

The essence of creativity is to think about products, services, solutions, processes, etc., outside the normal context in which they are defined or perceived. The key to achieving this is to stimulate the brain with new possibilities and there are several ways of doing this, for example:

  • Internet surfing for creativity websites and design ideas

  • Reading trade and non-related trade magazines

  • Monitoring emerging technologies and product launches

  • Visiting trade shows related to your own industry or professional arena

  • Visiting trade shows totally unrelated to your own industry or experience

  • Imagining what you or your team could achieve if you could remove current constraints in terms of resources, competences, budgets, etc.

  • Holding brainstorming sessions with staff / friends / or people unrelated to your business.

  • Keeping a shelf, cupboard or box of ‘things’ that you have picked up over the years which could serve as stimulants in brainstorming sessions.

  • Totally changing the environment while considering problems in order to disconnect your thinking from the normal influences of the workplace.

  • Engaging the services of an outside agency to facilitate the creative process.

Innovation, on the other hand, is all about using ability and skills to transform creative ideas into products, services, customer experiences and new business processes and models. In a nutshell, it is the process of turning creative ideas into a reality. It requires people to think differently about how issues should be addressed, how problems should be solved and how ideas can be turned into winning products.

One of the differences between the way in which successful entrepreneurs operate and the way in which large corporations operate is the way in which each utilizes resources to bring about new products or services. Large companies tend to fit the problem into the context of their experience and knowledge and utilize their vast resources to move the problem through tried and tested processes often yielding similar solutions to past problems. Entrepreneurs on the other hand look for the most cost effective, market focused solutions and then go and find the right resources to make things happen.

In the main, because of their size and systems, big companies do big things very well but tend not to do small things as well. This may explain why they often rely on smaller organizations for unusual, creative, or innovative solutions. Unless the large organization has deliberately spent a lot of time and effort to instill innovation into everything they do, it can often be the case that they stifle rather than nurture it. Success reinforces previous behaviour and prevents innovative thinking and the larger the organization, the more difficult it is to redress this phenomenon.

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