Creativity vs innovation – how do you tell them apart?
We’re here to explain the difference between the two, and how they can work together to benefit your business.
What is Creativity?
Let’s start with the obvious – how do dictionaries define creativity vs innovation?
Merriam-Webster goes with “the ability to create”, whilst Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas”. Wikipedia, meanwhile, says it’s “a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is formed”.
So, in a nutshell, creativity is all about coming up with or using something original. And that’s not just the obvious “arty” things, like paintings or songs. In business, creativity often appears as problem-solving or inventing.
A researcher called Arne Dietrich came up with four types of creativity, these are:
- Deliberate and Cognitive: this type of creativity comes from people who are very knowledgeable and carry out purposeful research and experimentation – often over a very long time. A great example of this is our namesake, Thomas Edison!
- Deliberate and Emotional: people who fall under this category of creativity often spend time quietly reflecting. They use their feelings and emotions to ignite their creative spark.
- Spontaneous and Cognitive: this type of creativity happens when someone does an activity unrelated to the problem they’re trying to solve and is suddenly struck by inspiration! This needs existing knowledge but helps to come up with new ways of looking at it. For example when, instead of considering the laws of physics, you decide to have a little sit down under an apple tree…
- Spontaneous and Emotional: you often find this type of creativity in great artists, and it cannot be predesigned. It’s that spark of inspiration that seems to come from nowhere.
What is Innovation?
According to Merriam-Webster innovation is:
- A new idea, method, or device
- The introduction of something new.
The dictionary goes on to say that innovation can “refer to something new or to a change made to an existing product, idea, or field”.
In terms of your business, innovation could take the form of a shiny new product or an update to your process for recycling paper.
Harvard Business School groups business innovation into two categories:
- Sustaining Innovation: These changes enhance existing processes or technologies for a current customer base.
- Disruptive Innovation: This occurs when more dynamic companies innovate to challenge less agile businesses. This could involve claiming a segment within an existing market or creating a new market segment altogether.
Creativity vs Innovation – what’s the key difference?
Creativity and innovation are intrinsically linked.
In fact, creativity is a part of innovation – after all, where would it be without fresh, new ideas? But it’s also subjective. Whilst you can measure innovation (e.g., how many new ideas have been gathered), it’s harder to pin down data on creativity. And not all creativity will feed into something concrete, like solving a problem or coming up with a new product, some will simply be for its own sake.
Finally, innovation is more than just a creative process. For innovation to be successful, you also need to take those ideas, choose those with the most potential, and turn them into reality.
How can you support creativity and innovation in your business?
So, now we’ve solved the problem of creativity vs innovation, how can you work to support them both?
- Give people a space to submit their ideas, whether that’s a good old-fashioned ideas box or state-of-the-art innovation software
- Make it fun! Using tools like gamification and offering creative prizes goes a long way
- Give people time to be creative – if they’re rushed off their feet, they’re less likely to have time to think
- Reduce the risk of taking part. Get leadership involved and consider allowing people to send in their thoughts anonymously
- Let people know if you’ve used their ideas, so they can see the impact they’ve had