Creativity and innovation are both words we use a lot at IVE but what is the difference between creativity and innovation?
When it comes to creativity and innovation, one thing is certain; they rely on each other, but they are not the same. To be creative, a person, group or business must be able to come up with new ideas. To be innovative, they need to act on these ideas.
Creativity, as the word suggests, is about creation. It’s about using the imagination in order to generate new ideas, a form of expression or finding solutions. Human beings are innately creative, meaning we can all be creative on a daily basis and in all situations.
For many, the creative behaviours that underpin our ability to be creative have been unlearned, but they still exist. Too often creativity has been seen as the sole preserve of the arts or those ‘left field’ businesses who deliberately try and do things differently. However, the changing business landscape means that companies are beginning to consider a more creative approach to working and therefore need people who have the capacity to generate ideas or relearn those behaviours that will equip them with that ability.
As new technologies continue to develop and become available, companies have to be flexible and able to keep up to date. Creativity allows them to easily identify new ways in which technology can be applied to help their businesses. Likewise, with social media and other interactive forms of marketing now available, it’s never been more important for companies to be able to be creative.
Allowing employees to be more creative can inspire them to come up with more interesting ideas as well as improve their overall output. Many of the world’s leading companies have started to adopt unorthodox methods of encouraging maximum creativity from their employees, such as sleeping pods and flexible working areas.
Innovation, on the other hand is about changing a common or long-standing process by improving it. So, while creativity and innovation share strong links, the processes are entirely different.
Innovation is about taking newly created ideas and developing them into something useful and practical. In many ways, innovation is the process of converting ideas into action.
The most common type of innovation is evolutionary, which means finding ways of making incremental improvements to products and services. This type of innovation carries fewer risks, as it’s generally easier to establish demand for these improvements and to calculate the likely return on investment. However, it still requires a strategic, targeted approach – there’s little point in improving a product in a way that customers don’t value.
Innovation is important because it’s the only way that you can differentiate your products and services from those of your competitors. For customers and clients to choose your business, your offer needs to be distinctive and valuable, and the only way to achieve this is through innovation. The art of the truly innovative company is to spot opportunities to evolve at the right moment. The difficulty lies in the fact that the right moment exists during that period of growth when sales are on an upwards trajectory. The art involves spotting that moment just before you reach your peak. This might be illustrated by the ‘sigmoid curve’ in figure 1 below;
Figure 1: ‘The Sigmoid Curve’
You start to pave the ground for the next undertaking at point A. That way, all the uncertainty, doubt, and experimentation happens against the backdrop of success to act as your cushion for security. You won’t have (as much) anxiety dealing with the unknowns because your survival isn’t dependent on it. And you repeat the process, over and over again. That way, when one source of success declines and peters out, you’ll be thriving on something else. This really is the only path to sustained achievement. To ignore it and simply hope that you’re the one exception to the sigmoid curve is a bad idea. To constantly exist in this environment requires high levels of creativity and the capacity to translate new ideas into innovative evolution.
Exploiting both creativity and innovation in business can boost performance and the bottom line. But first, you need to make space for both to happen.
There are many ways of achieving this from having flexible working conditions to adaptable working environment that supports the creative process. However, it starts and to a certain extent, ends with people. Staff need to feel empowered to contribute ideas and trusted that their ideas will be listened to, regardless of how ‘out there’ those ideas might be. The key is to use develop a culture across the business that creativity and the resultant innovation is everybody’s responsibility. Perhaps the first step in establishing this culture is persuading staff that they all have the capacity and capability to be creative. Whilst creative behaviours are undoubtedly ‘un-learned’ they can also be re-learned. IVE have spent the last 21 years developing training programmes that enable participants to unlock that ‘inner creative’ that exists in all of us, and equip them with a range of skills that build confidence with the creative process and the ability to generate ideas and translate them into innovative practice. To find out more about our ‘Building Creative Capability’ programmes please contact Drew@weareive.org
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