Do we need to be creative to be innovative?

Creativity and innovation tend to go hand in hand when discussed within the world of work. I’m not sure if they should, because most of my work on organisational growth doesn’t include creativity but focuses on being enterprising and innovative. I’m not saying having some creative people isn’t helpful. But I’ve often worked in organisations where no one displays true creativity, yet we have been able to develop some innovative solutions.

In the worlds of art, design and craft, creativity is seen as a core skill. In the world of business innovation, it is now being considered as a key skill required amongst staff members. But should “Creativity” and “Innovation” really be considered as skills which go together. Or is this another of those pairings, such as “Sales and Marketing”, which, while they have some elements of crossover, actually have different functions.

So, what is innovation?

Innovation is the action or process of innovating, making changes to something or developing a new or better solution to something. It’s the process of altering or improving something so that those who use it or are impacted by it have a better experience. (Well, sometimes innovation makes things worse, but let’s not dwell on that now).

Innovation often consists of multiple activities to uncover new or improved ways of doing something. Some innovations are about implementing something completely new (an invention), but often innovation tends to be about improving what we already have or the way we already do things.

So, what is an invention?

An invention is the creation of something completely new. An invention could be about creating a new device or process, but it is usually only the idea element and not necessarily the implementation of the idea.

So, what is creativity?

Creativity is about the use of your imagination or unusual ideas to come up with original concepts. These ideas may or may not be of any particular relevance to meeting specific needs. They may not be considered or thought through as to how they can be implemented. Therefore, being creative may develop a germ of an idea, but it is necessary to then work on that idea to enable it to be of value.

Okay, so do staff members need to be creative to be innovative?

No, not necessarily. Creativity is about opening your mind to other prospects or potential solutions. This requires you to be able to ask the right questions, keep your eyes open to opportunities, be willing to play with your thoughts, know how to fuse ideas together, and be brave enough to come up with ideas that others may see as silly or whacky.

While these skills can help in innovation, it is also possible to innovate using other people’s tried-and-tested ideas but transferred into your own specific area of work. So, creativity is not required.

It’s always great to help people be more creative, and there are techniques that can be used to help you open your mind to the creative process. However, creativity alone does not help with organisational growth; creativity needs to be paired with innovation. Innovation in its own right can improve organisational growth without the need to develop creative skills.

The choice is yours. Do you need creativity to be innovative? NO. Does it add value? YES. If you are considering embedding an innovative culture in your organisation, take a look at some of my other work on people-centred innovation.

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