Creativity vs. Innovation: What’s the Difference?
Creativity and innovation are not the same. The truth is, you don’t need to be making ground-breaking products, or be a “creative person,” to be an innovator. The key to enabling everyday innovation is breaking down the barriers to, and misperceptions about innovation and providing teams with the right structure and tools to be successful.
- You don’t need to be a “creative person” to innovate
- What are the common barriers to innovation?
- Bottom line: when well supported, an innovation strategy can be used to fuel energy and engagement
You Don’t Need to Be a “Creative Person” to Innovate
The word innovation can be polarizing. Some organizations – sometimes entire industries – may not consider themselves to be innovative. And individual employees will often have strong notions about what it means to be innovative, conjuring up stereotypical images of the “creative genius” or the “wacky scientist”. The truth is: you don’t need to be making ground-breaking products, or be a “creative person,” to be an innovator.
For those employees that don’t think they are a “creative person”, they can rest assured that creativity and innovation are not the same thing.
- Creativity refers to the ability to generate novel and valuable ideas, concepts, or solutions. It’s the process of generating new ideas, regardless of whether they are eventually implemented or add value. And, of course, the generation of ideas is important for innovation; but ideas in and of themselves do not equate to innovation.
- Innovation is the process of translating creative ideas into value-adding solutions that deliver tangible results, such as new products, services, or processes. Innovation involves taking a creative idea and implementing it in a way that adds value to an organization or to society in general. It requires thoughtful execution to bring these new products, services or solutions into practical application.
What are the Common Barriers to Innovation?
In this article, we’ll share the common barriers and misperceptions, and help you re-imagine what everyday innovation might look like for your organization or team.
Barrier 1: “We’re not a creative bunch so we can’t be innovative.”
Creativity and innovation are related but distinct concepts.
We define innovation as ideas that, when implemented, add value to the organization.Through this lens, when teams challenge the status quo and identify opportunities to make incremental or large-scale improvements to your processes, systems and customer experience, they are being innovative. This means that every employee, equipped with an easy-to-use process and simple tools, can contribute major value by coming up with, and implementing, innovative solutions. The key to enabling everyday innovation is breaking down the barriers to, and misperceptions about innovation and providing teams with the right innovation training to be successful.
In this way, innovation is a discipline and is so much broader than a singular great idea, or a creative brainstorming session. It’s about evaluating a number of ideas in order to execute the one that will generate value and impact. You don’t need to be a creative type to be innovative – in fact, diversity of perspective, mindset, and skill set are all critical to the innovation process. With a structured process and access to the right tools, everyone has the ability to contribute to the process of innovation.
Barrier 2: “We’re not an innovative company.”
You’re limited in your view of innovation and this creates a barrier for engaging in the strategy.
Innovation is often associated with world-changing products like the iPod or AI. It can be tempting to think that your company or team isn’t innovative – or can’t be innovative – simply because innovation isn’t associated with your product or industry. Or, your industry might be highly regulated or constrained by policies. Although these are real constraints, innovation is still possible – and very much needed.
It’s important to shift the focus away from just “world-changing” products or ideas and, instead, consider incremental or everyday solutions. This means looking for opportunities to improve existing products, processes, or services, rather than only pursuing radical new “big” ideas. Innovation at its core is often about removing interference or friction in the system.
Any organization looking to remain competitive in today’s business environment needs to continually monitor, improve, or (re)consider its processes, systems, and customer experience to stay relevant, manage costs, and meet ever-evolving customer expectations.
Looking at innovation through this lens, every team is both capable of, and responsible for, innovation – it’s not just for a dedicated innovation team, or those with innovation in their title. By building the innovation capability of your people and teams, you can actively encourage and empower employees at all levels to contribute their ideas and to identify opportunities and experiments that make things better.
Barrier 3: “Leaders keep saying ‘Think Outside the Box’. I don’t know how (and frankly, I like my box).”
Why “thinking outside the box” is the wrong terminology.
The phrase “think outside the box” is often used to encourage people to think differently, creatively or unconventionally, with the hope or expectation of generating new ideas. But it can sometimes be unhelpful or misleading. The problem with this phrase is that it assumes people:
(1) are aware of (and willing to let go of) their current “box” or way of thinking, and
(2) know how to think creatively, and well outside their current “box”.
To be frank, people generally like their “box” – it’s often precisely what has led to their current success. So, asking them to let go of something (like a process, product, or way of approaching their work) that they know well, in exchange for something ambiguous like “another box” can be intimidating. And asking them to do so without providing a structure or tools to support them in that journey, is likely to backfire.
Additionally, the term “outside the box” suggests that we’re working with arbitrary constraints that are limiting our thinking: that there is a box in the first place and that it comes with constraints that don’t serve a purpose. In reality, there are always constraints, whether they are external (such as legal or regulatory requirements), or internal (such as the resources and capabilities of an organization). The good news is – constraints get a bad rap but are highly valuable for driving innovative ideas.
Instead of asking teams to “think outside the box,” it is far more helpful to equip them with a structured process and tools to guide the innovation process. This helps the team identify and address the constraints that are present, and provides a framework for generating and evaluating new possibilities. By using a structured process, individuals and teams can follow a methodical approach to generate and implement innovative ideas successfully.
Barrier 4: “We don’t have the time or bandwidth to innovate”
Your people are engaged but exhausted. They lack the energy to be innovative.
People’s energy can have a significant impact on their ability to be innovative. When people feel energetic and motivated, they are more likely to be curious, creative, and open to new ideas. They are also more likely to take risks, try new things, and push boundaries. This can lead to more innovative thinking and breakthrough ideas.
On the other hand, when people feel tired, burnt out, or disengaged, they may struggle to identify opportunities for improvement and may be more closed off to new experiences and less likely to take risks. All of this can limit their ability to think innovatively. Fostering an environment that supports people’s energy and motivation is therefore crucial to the innovation process.
This is where you can really accelerate performance and results: at the intersection of your innovation strategy and your engagement strategy. When individuals feel connected and supported and are working on something real and meaningful, they generate energy. And it is this energy that fuels engagement in the workplace. By giving individuals the chance to work on value-adding solutions and everyday innovation, you are providing them with real and meaningful work. When you equip them with the structure and tools to approach that innovation effectively and collaboratively, you are providing them with energy-generating collaboration, support and connection.
Bottom Line: When Well Supported, an Innovation Strategy Can Be Used to Fuel Energy and Engagement.
By demystifying everyday innovation you can help your teams feel inspired and grow the innovation capability within your organization. To be clear: building the innovation capability doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. With a simple, structured process and practical tools, any team can be equipped to approach their work with an innovative mindset and generate breakthrough solutions.
A Simple Innovation Process & Tools To Help Anyone Innovate
It’s not enough to say “Think outside the box!”. If we expect people to think outside of their boxes, we need to provide them with a new box (or boxes) that provide the support they need to effectively engage with innovation. That’s where the structured i5 process and tools comes in. Watch the video and explore how Innovation in a Box can help you fuel every day innovation within your organization.
Ready to Change How Your Organization Innovates?
Equip your teams to be everyday innovators and introduce them to an easy-to-use structured approach, powered by a practical process and tools. You can help your team members feel comfortable, confident, and motivated to be more innovative every day.