"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Sunday, February 8, 2009


During the early years, around the eighties, when I had started to read books on 'creativity' & 'innovation', I had often used the two terms interchangeably. I often substituted 'creativity' into 'innovation', & vice versa.

In a nut shell, I didn't know that there was a distinctive difference between the two terms, 'creativity' & 'innovation'.

It was only until I had embarked on a journey to become a strategy consultant for small business, during the early nineties, that I had begun to realise my own misunderstanding, or more specifically, my own ignorance, of the two terms.

Today, I notice that a lot of businesspeople, including managers & even CEOs, get really "confused", without realising their folly, with the frequent use of the two terms in their corporate statements.

In this post, I will share with readers my own relentless pursuit in understanding the distinctive differences, & also, highlight some interesting perspectives from "gurus" or "industry experts", whom I thought had shared more light on the two terms in use in the business landscape.

In fact, I had already written an earlier post in my 'Optimum Performance Technologies' weblog, but drawing mostly from an expert assessment by creativity guru Ned Herrmann, who gave the world the HBDI profile.

In the first place, let's go back to word origins:

"Create" has it Latin roots which means "to bring forth", "to cause something to come into being, as something unique";

"Innovate" has its Latin roots which means "to renew"; "to introduce something new"; "make changes, as adding something new to an existing product or process";

With these word origins, we can say that 'creativity' is a process that create the product in the first place. The product didn't exists before it was created.

The bottom line: It's the process that produces an original outcome, from combining ideas in a unique way or making unusual associations between ideas.

On the other hand, 'innovation' is the change, modification or implementation of an existing product.

No wonder management guru Peter Drucker said it best:

"Innovation is change that creates a new dimension of performance."

The bottom line: Innovation is an outcome of the creative process, resulting in taking the creation idea & turning it into a useful product, service or method of operation.

Putting them into an organisational &/or business perspective:

'Creativity' is essentially a mental process - as such, it involves a lot of imagination & thinking - that discovers new ways of looking at problems & challenges, & generates new ideas, solutions or concepts to tackle them.

'Innovation' is a management process - as such, it involves a lot of planning & execution - that applies creative solutions to problems & challenges, & ultimately turn them into something of value or life-enhancing or enriching impact.

Tactically, as I see it, 'creativity' has a focus on 'idea or solution generation', while 'innovation' has a focus on 'value realisation'.

I like the way of researcher/innovator Frans Johansson, author of 'The Medici Effect', who puts it in a beautiful perspective:

"To be considered creative, an idea must be new . . . it must also have some measure of relevance. It must be valuable."

"To be considered innovative, it must not only be valuable, it must be put to use by others . . . it must become realised . . . it has also to be sold to others in the world."

Arnold Wasserman, Chairman, The Idea Factory, a pet project of John Kao, who wrote the classic, 'The Art of Jamming', reinforces the foregoing with his own expert assessment:

"Innovation is Creativity Implemented. It's taking creative ideas & bringing them into the world so that they change lives & change the organisation that brings them to the world."

So, 'creativity' is just a part or component of 'innovation', while the latter is something that looks at the larger picture.

In a nut shell, 'creativity' is simply the way in which we come up with new ideas, while 'innovation' uses new ideas as well as existing ideas, coupled with our inventory of knowledge & experience, to meet a specific purpose, usually in the context of a business or commercial endeavour.

It's the ultimate purpose, & the concept of commercialisation, which gives rise to the value realisation in the final product, that differentiates 'innovation' from 'creativity'.

[to be continued in the Next Post, as this is quite a challenging post to write.]

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