Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Creativity versus innovation

I hear these topics talked about in a way that somehow equates them. I think they are both important, but I strongly believe that creativity is a subset of innovation, and firms that focus only on creativity will suffer over the long run.

In our thinking model of innovation, the first few steps have to do with creating new ideas. Creativity is a significant part of those steps. Without a good creative culture, most ideas get shot down or never even generated. Too many firms actively discourage creativity, thinking that it hampers "real" work. Those firms settle for incremental innovation if any innovation at all.

However, no matter how creative a firm may be, if the ideas are generated but never evaluated or converted to new products or services, they are merely interesting artifacts. Value is generated by taking a creative new idea and moving it through a series of gates or stages to produce a new product or service or business model and launch that new "thing" into the market. How many people have said they "invented" the latest new gadget or fad, only they never found the time to actually develop the product. They had the idea, but never took the idea to fruition. That's the difference between creativity and innovation.

Creativity is important - don't get me wrong, but innovation, as defined as bringing new ideas to market in the form of new product and services - is what generates the ultimate value. Innovation could be thought of as harnessing the creative energy and moving those great new ideas through a defined set of processes to an ultimately valuable conclusion.

So, when you are considering the training and capabilities necessary to help your firm generate new products and services, consider both the creativity capability and the innovation process. Just don't think they are the same thing.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 2:35 PM


Anonymous Dave Bayless said...

I've found it useful to think of a spectrum that runs from idea (the articulation of a hypothesized value proposition) through various stages of invention (a prototyped, testable instantiation of the proposed solution), to innovation - the adoption of the solution by users. The road between idea and innovation has enumerable twists and turns and requires a lot of hard work. But, it sure is fun.

4:56 PM  
Blogger kittykabuki said...

I couldn't agree with you more. An idea is really is only really a good idea when it has some kind of positive commercial outcome, otherwise it's just creativity for creativity's sake. Strong innovative ideas should always have a commercial angle - whether it be another innovative revenue stream, cost cutting, a new way to save money or even a more cost efficient innovative way to distribute or manufacture products. I think sometimes people get caught up in innovation as a new product idea, when in actual fact, innovative is a new way of creating or doing something better or more efficiently or from a new perspective.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Dr. Lauchlan A. K. Mackinnon said...

I think your distinction is right. However, I think the distinction is fairly widely recognized in the innovation literature - it is extensively used to define innovation as opposed to creativity. I had put some efforts into updating the Wikipedia article to make this clear - see the 'innovation in organizations' section. Anyway, I guess a good point is worth making again! :)

6:16 AM  
Blogger Kenneth said...

Agree with your definition totally! I wrote on the same subject as you recently when I was trying to figure out the differences between the 2 words. The key idea on innovation is bringing the creativity to fruitation.

8:07 AM  
Blogger kittykabuki said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:10 PM  
Blogger robbo said...

here is a quote I use: “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”
Theodore Levitt (Harvard Business School)

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Valeri Souchkov said...

There are many definitions of innovations available, and they identify a role of creativity differently. In my opinion, creativity is one of the pillars of innovation, but only one of many. Modern innovation is a business process which involves both generating new ideas and bringing them to market; while creativity is a personal quality whcih helps creating new ideas. Thus we might say that a creative person is someone who is capable of producing new bright ideas; while innovator possesses capabilities of transforming these ideas to commercially successful products or services. Certainly, innovators can generate ideas as well. But to bring a breakthrough (or a disruptive) idea to market, creativity is often required along the entire process of innovation: and this is where we have a problem! It is often mentioned that up to 70-80% of innovative products fail. Why? Because they are bad? I do not think so. I often hear that we need creativity to produce new product or service ideas, but what about creativity to find new ways of marketing and selling these new products? Most organizations are not balanced properly today with respect to creativity: they might have very creative engineers and at the same time lack of creative force to successfully commercialize their products. As a conclusion, it is not enough to create one great idea; in many cases creativity has to accompany the entire process of innovation.

7:22 AM  
Blogger kittykabuki said...

People forget that creative thinking when applied to pricing structures, manufacturing process, packaging, distribution or sales / marketing is just as important (sometimes more important) than just coming up with a "creative" idea....An obvious thought I know but every time I walk down a supermarket aisle it strikes me just how many people ignore this basic principle. Sometimes you can see a good seed of an idea but the way it has been taken to market doesn't do it justice. There are so many reasons why good products do badly, none of which necessarily have anything to do with the actual quality or originality of the product....

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

If innovation is the implementation of creativity there surely needs to be some means to develop an idea into a product. However for me this still implies that creativity is the most important part of innovation as processes might help to faster bring creative ideas to become fruitfull, however, the implementation not necessarily needs processes but could also follow again a creative path (admitting that this probably is not the fastes way to success but still). With just having a process you will never reach a creative idea that could be turned into an innovation.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeffrey...Perfect explanation!!!

11:08 PM  
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Good post on creative thinking.

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