Innovation Vs Creativity

How often do you hear a friend or colleague say, “I have this great idea for a new product”? Or say it yourself? Creative ideas abound, so why is it that only a select few businesses are able to capitalize on them with extra-ordinary profits?

The answer to this question lies in the difference between Creativity and Innovation. Contrary to popular belief, Creativity and Innovation are not interchangeable.  Creativity is the ability to come up with a new idea, process, or product.  The people and companies that are truly innovative are able to harness those creative ideas and bring them to market (for process innovations – have them impact the market) in a profitable manner.

To be innovative a company must:

· Come up with (or find) creative ideas

· Be able to select those with market potential

· Turn the ideas into products or processes

· Bring them to the marketplace in a profitable way

Creativity is the first and a necessary but not sufficient component of innovation.  Developing an innovative organization requires a wall-to-wall look at how business is done and what systems, processes, policies, unwritten rules, and ways of working are in place. Five categories can be used to frame the shift toward innovation.  Their definitions can be debated, as there is some natural overlap between categories. The important thing is to have the framework to help capture and manage all of these interrelated activities:

Management Focus – This is just as it sounds: Actions to embed innovation into the routines of all layers of management.

Culture – The articulation of the behaviors an organization encourages in order to foster innovation as well as the structure put in place to incent that behavior and discourage the opposite behavior.

Process – The processes that touch innovation from idea generation to rapid prototyping and on through to the market can be huge impediments. From a change management perspective, this and Culture are arguably the most difficult areas to implement.

Resources – The money and time necessary to allow people to research and come up with ideas and then shepherd them to prototype and potentially to market.

Idea Generation – A process in place to allow for the generation of potentially innovative ideas and the organizational learning of how to be a more creative thinker.

In order for an organization to begin the journey to becoming innovative, a comprehensive look at individual behaviors and thinking, executive actions, available resources, process, and overall culture must be conducted. The creativity part of the equation, while important, is usually the simplest part.

For more information about Innovation, please see my e-zine article “Getting Smart About Innovation – Readings, Videos, Web-sites” here which provides suggested Innovation-related readings, web-sites and videos.

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