Is creativity a synonym for innovation?

Creativity & innovation are the dynamic duo powering business success! Think of creativity as the spark, the "lightbulb moment", and innovation as the process to bring it to life. To flourish, businesses must harness both: fostering a creative atmosphere and implementing ideas purposefully. Ready to mix magic with method? Dive in!

Innovation Management
Carlos Mendes
Carlos Mendes
Co-Founder @ InnovationCast

Is Creativity a Synonym for Innovation?

In business, creativity, and innovation often have a symbiotic relationship. Similarly to how our ecosystem relies on the natural cycle of plants and animals, your business depends on cycles of creativity and innovation to function properly.

Organizations can no longer rest on their laurels as the corporate climate becomes more competitive. To remain ahead of the competition, they must continually improve and identify growth opportunities. This is done by supporting creative ideas with innovation processes.

Let's take a closer look at what creativity and innovation mean.

What is creativity?

Creativity can manifest itself in many ways, depending on its motivation.

Regarding entrepreneurship, creativity often arises from the need and desire for change or the search for a solution. Seemingly out of nowhere, an idea about a revolutionary product or price model might pop into your head.

This "lightbulb moment" is often confused with the sum of creativity. The idea is that such epiphanies appear out of nowhere, that people like Larry Page, co-founder of Google, came up with his PageRank algorithm overnight. But that's not how it works.

Creativity, or rather creative thinking, is a process, not an event. We're all capable of coming up with ideas, and thus, we all possess creativity. But despite appearances, more often than not, creativity is not an individual phenomenon. It occurs through interactions between multiple people, so creativity is found "In the interaction between a person's thoughts and a sociocultural context." (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

But creative ideas can't contribute anything meaningful to your organization (or your life) if they're not implemented. That's where innovation comes in.

What is innovation?

Innovation can be defined as "ideas realized." We can think of creativity, then, as a component of innovation. To bring ideas—the seeds of innovation—to life, you need to implement a purpose-built innovation process.

An important part of this process is defining your challenges and developing ideas to resolve them.

This is what differentiates innovation from creativity. Innovation is always practical, business-oriented, and benefit-driven. The ideation process is centered around solving a specific challenge or exploring new pathways. Creativity, although essential, is only a useful attribute that expands your innovative horizons.

Simply looking at the words themselves can further elucidate their differences. Creativity is a noun. It's an attribute, a skill a person can possess. Innovation is also a noun. But it describes an end-to-end process; a person cannot possess innovation.

How can you boost creativity in the workplace?

It's easy to mistake creativity for a standalone event. But as discussed, there is a traceable process that underpins creativity. Because creativity is a process, it can be easily explored and improved.

But how do you become more creative? Isn't that something we're born with?

No. Creativity can be improved, but only with a growth mindset. That is, the belief that you can get better at something through persistence and repetition. As a leader, there are several things you can do to help your workforce be more creative.

Set clear challenges

It's easy to believe that barriers and guidelines have no place in creative processes and that creativity is all about radical, outside-the-box thinking. But interestingly, constraints make us more creative.

Because creativity can manifest itself in many forms, it must be fitted with constraints to provide value in innovation. Failure to define your challenges can lead to an overwhelming influx of ideas which causes your innovation efforts to falter.

The engineers at GE Healthcare, for example, produced the revolutionary MAC 400 Electrocardiograph (ECG) under a set of very strict guidelines. They were asked to develop an ECG device that boasts the latest technology, is battery-operated, ultra-portable, and costs no more than $1 per scan. These constraints led to one of the most significant developments in rural-access healthcare.

So when you're defining your challenges, be precise and create barriers. Doing so will help you uncover interesting ideas that are highly relevant.

Broaden knowledge with workshops and skill development

Creativity is ignited when employees are pushed out of their comfort zones. Providing regular training days and workshops broadens knowledge and confronts your staff with unfamiliar scenarios.

When we're confronted with something new, we cannot fall back on our usual behavior patterns, and so we're forced to get creative with our approach.

Prioritize wellness

Many external factors impact creativity. Things like nutrient intake, getting enough sleep, exposure to sunlight, and social stimulation all contribute to our cognitive and creative abilities. By prioritizing the wellness of your workforce, you can increase your chances of uncovering highly creative ideas.

Develop a culture that encourages creativity

Fear is the Achilles heel of creativity. Not so much the fear of failure of the idea itself but the possibility of looking stupid, feeling humiliated, or dealing with embarrassment.

To encourage your employees to come forward with ideas, you need to create a culture that supports creative thinking. And that doesn't just mean hosting more brainstorming sessions. To encourage creativity in the workplace, employees need to feel involved with important decision-making, connect their role with the company mission, and trust their colleagues.

Combining creativity and innovation

Creativity is a prerequisite for all innovation activities, not just groundbreaking ones. Sure, groundbreaking innovations require great ideas, but so do smaller, more gradual innovations like improvements to daily processes.

But real change comes from your ability to combine creative thinking with innovative practices. More creativity leads to better ideas, but innovation is needed to bring those ideas to fruition.

Managing innovation with innovation management software

Your ability to manage ideas dictates the long-term viability of your business. Business leaders who think innovation is all about collecting ideas will soon find themselves buried in a mass of ideas—some useful, others downright irrelevant.

With InnovationCast, you're given the tools to manage your innovation activities with precision. By separating the innovation process into smaller tasks, you can carry multiple innovations through strategic workflows that produce results in months, not years.

If you're interested in learning more about how InnovationCast can accelerate your innovation efforts, get in touch to schedule a demo today.