Are Innovation and Creativity the same thing?
A common question with a simple and a not so simple answer.
Simply put, the answer is “no, innovation and creativity are not the same”. But let’s explore the question a little. It’s always more complicated in practice.
We talk about innovation a lot here at Avnio. For good reason, innovation is our bread and butter, so to speak. We come up with new ideas for RFP responses because if we stay stuck in the old way of doing things we’ll all end up losing out on the right business.
Innovation is that good old human instinct to improve things. It’s what led our ancestors to fire, to steam, to electricity, to the World Wide Web. It’s what made some people 14,000 to 40,000 years ago once look at a wolf and say “That would make a great companion”.
Of course, the wolf idea turned out to be a good one.
Not all innovation works out that way.
So, what is innovation?
Innovation is one of those strange concepts that in some ways defies definition. Or, maybe we’re just not yet satisfied with the answers we’re getting when we ask this particular question.
In some cases, it means “carrying out new combinations”, but that doesn’t sound solution-focused enough. You can carry out a new combination without getting anywhere near a solution that actually works.
Innovation often has connotations of successful new combinations. The failures aren’t innovative, because, this line of thinking goes, if it was innovative it would have succeeded.
A good example of this is Salesforce and their focus on AI, or SpaceX’s reusable space rocket. The Falcon 9 is able to launch payloads into Earth’s orbit and then safely land on a barge in the ocean autonomously.
This cut the cost of launching payloads by three quarters. It’s easy to see why something like that is an innovation. It’s big, flashy, and makes a huge difference in the way that industry operates.
Of course, innovation can also be smaller that this. Impacting fewer people makes it no less important for those people.
Changing a company process in a way that makes the lives of employees better? Great innovation!
But what is creativity?
Creativity can be many different things, and it’s this flexibility that again contributes to the issue at hand. Creativity is approaching a problem from a different angle. Sound familiar?
Being creative, though, is something we often attribute to those pursuing the Arts. Painting, drawing, writing novels, film making, papier-mâché masks for Halloween (got yours ready for tomorrow night?), or scrapbooking… it doesn’t matter the medium, these are the creative arts.
But when Monster.com are advocating that all job seekers should be able to demonstrate their creativity to get hired, they obviously aren’t asking job candidates to break out the one they made earlier in the middle of their interviews.
Creativity in the professional world is often meant to be the ability to come up with imaginative or new methods to solve problems.
If creativity is doing something in a new way, innovation must be the application of that method in a way that improves on the original method.
Innovation is the application of a new method that improves on the original one
Whilst on the surface creativity and innovation sound like different facets of the same thing, there’s a subtle but important difference: innovation is an improvement, creativity is often not.
You can be creative without doing something the most practical, or cost-effective way, for example. Mass-production has gotten us to the point where we can buy furniture rather cheaply.
But if you want something hand-crafted by an expert woodworker, you’ll need to wait the weeks, months, or years it might take to make a single piece.
Who decides what has improved what came before?
This is a logical next question. Who decides what is innovation, then, if we attach a value statement like “improvement” to the definition?
It’s hard to say. In some cases, that responsibility will lie with the government or regulatory body relevant to the innovation. In other cases, it will simply be the company employing an innovative solution.
Can you improve your workflow speed by 75%? Then it is an excellent innovation for you. It wouldn’t matter if John Smith at A Corp. would improve by only 2% by using the same method. He’ll need a different solution, but it doesn’t diminish yours.
Often, deciding what has improved comes from robust reporting that happens at a high level, and these metrics are shown in tidy graphs. Creativity doesn’t often fall easily into tidy graphs.
Where do innovation and creativity come from?
The human drive to excel, to try different things, or to explore the unknown. These all contribute to innovation and creativity.
There is value in being different. There’s value in bucking the trend, saying “the way we do this is not the best” and looking for a better solution. That’s why we’re so focused on innovation at Avnio. We don’t want everyone to settle for the only thing they have ever known.
Everyone in a company can benefit from creative thinking, but it’s applying that creativity in a methodical way that creates innovation.
In future, we’re going to dive into what makes our team members creative in dealing with their day to day problems, and we’ll show you how we’re using that to improve our products.
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