Creativity and Innovation: Spot the Difference

Stuart Sinclair - June 13, 2013

Is there a difference between creativity and innovation? And if so, why is it important?

In the stats-driven world of business, where everything should be measurable, the idea that creativity and innovation cannot be measured sends shivers down the spine of every executive. However, the fact is that innovation CAN be measured, because it is fundamentally different from creativity.

In a blog for Business Insider, Drew Marshall sets out why creativity is not the same as innovation, and to his mind, it's all about 13focus.

"Creativity is about unleashing the potential of the mind to conceive new ideas … Creativity is subjective, making it hard to measure.

"Innovation, on the other hand, is completely measurable. Innovation is about introducing change into relatively stable systems.

"By identifying an unrecognized and unmet need, an organization can use innovation to apply its creative resources to design an appropriate solution and reap a return on its investment."

I absolutely agree. Creativity is a thought process, innovation is the change process.

Enter, Design Thinking
Sadly, in one way, Marshall continues by suggesting that as many businesses assume you can't force innovation to happen, the problem could be resolved by introducing "a common language for innovation — design thinking."

He suggests there are three 'overlapping spaces' that define design thinking; inspiration, ideation and implementation. He then asserts that; "Design thinking provides a consistent approach to defining challenges."

Do We Need ‘Design Thinking’?
I think he's making an error to try and rebrand innovation as design thinking. If innovation is the process, then his three spaces are simply part of a manageable process to turn creative ideas into meaningful and lasting change with bottom-line benefits.

To my mind, you can replace his rather woolly 'design thinking' with the clarity of the phrase 'innovation management', as in:
"Leaders and their organizations cannot be afraid of failure — or they will never incorporate the innovation they need to truly meet customers’ needs. Design thinking (innovation management) offers a path to risk-taking that’s manageable, repeatable, and driven toward maximizing the effectiveness of the new idea."

Fostering Creativity
One might quibble over phraseology or words, but Marshall's summary of how creativity and innovation management are both vital to continued business success is absolutely spot on:
"Organizations need to foster creativity. Driving business results by running ideas through an innovation process puts those ideas to work — for companies and their customers. Creativity is the price of admission, but it’s innovation that pays the bills."

And in today's climate, British businesses need innovation more than ever to pay those bills…

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