In business, you’ll hear the words 'creativity' and 'innovation' thrown around a lot. Interviewers use them when they screen new employees, and managers use them when they talk about growth in the company.
But there’s a common tendency to employ these words interchangeably. Strictly speaking, the two terms refer to different things, and it can become confusing if people grow to assume they mean the same thing.
The world is constantly changing, particularly in the business arena, which should underscore the importance of understanding the distinction between creativity and innovation. You absolutely need both, and to grasp the difference between them, in order to empower your business to grow and stay competitive.
In the book Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes, Shawn Hunter defines creativity as the capability or act of thinking up something original or unusual. By contrast, Hunter defines innovation as the implementation or creation of something new that has immense value to others.
'Creativity isn’t necessarily innovation,' Hunter told Business News Daily. 'If you have a brainstorm meeting and dream up dozens of new ideas, then you have displayed creativity, [but] there is no innovation until something gets implemented.'
In other words, being creative involves devising unique ideas. Innovating means putting those new ideas into action. It’s the manifestation of thought versus action, which, if you’re a business manager, you’ll realize is an essential distinction.
Creativity is subjective and hard to measure. A person might have a lot of great ideas, but if he or she only talks about them and doesn’t do anything to bring them to life, no one will know the power and potential of that person’s creativity.
Innovation is measurable. When a unique idea is put into action, there’s always something to show for it.
Learning to Manage Innovation
Companies have to learn how to encourage innovation within the workplace, in order to see the fruits of their creativity. This involves both managers who are on board with implementing ideas in the business and a team that’s involved in the decision-making process.
'While leaders can foster innovation, the organization as a whole must also support innovation through the makeup of its culture and the way it designs its processes,' Hunter writes. 'Sometimes, the best way to spark innovation is by allowing activity within the organization that deviates from the norm, but that may lead to positive outcomes.'
When teams and managers work together, and explore new opportunities, the possibilities open up constantly. Organizations are better able to measure milestones and carry their innovative efforts forward. They can remain competitive and are more likely to beat the competition.
Another essential aspect of managing innovation is making sure your expectations are clear. If you use the terms creativity and innovation interchangeably, you risk causing confusion among your team members.
Make sure you emphasize creativity in the brainstorming process and innovation in the action phase.
Note the Overlap
We should acknowledge that creativity and innovation will always overlap. Though the two terms apply separately in some situations, they will overlap in others.
It’s not always a series of processes that follow one after another. It’s more like a group of overlapping spaces that encourage a way of thinking. Parts of those spaces consists of inspiration, ideation, implementation, invention, and other processes that bring your creative ideas to light.
All in all, innovation can only transcend the current market if it’s designed fully to stand out. Some moves can be small, but only radical innovation will put a firm into a growth pattern with no end in sight.
In a world where creative minds are implementing amazing new products, services, and processes everywhere, radical innovation is the path to take, if you wish to prevail.