During a recent strategic-planning session we discussed corporate Values and Culture. I mentioned Spirited’s corporate Values are: Courage, Confidence, Conviction, and Creativity. I also mentioned each of these words had been defined, discussed, and described in blogs…because it’s risky to use words unless those words are understood.
Some discussion and lots of thinking about innovation and creativity ensued.
So, now I am writing to share more of my thoughts…
Do some search-engine exploration. Or, check LinkedIn questions & answers. If you do this then you can find hundreds of definitions of innovation, perhaps dozens credited to Peter Drucker alone.
In that blog, I proposed the following definition for Business Innovation:
Business Innovation [def’n]:
a thing done or provided to add value by solving a customer’s problem or satisfying a customer’s need
That definition of Innovation still works for me.
But – perhaps that’s because I have drawn some clear lines between Innovation and Creativity.
What’s the difference between Creativity and Innovation? And, how do I define Creativity?
First, Innovation and Creativity have two very important things in common.
- heavily grounded in Imagination and
- closely tied to Change.
Creativity and Innovation also have in common, but to differing degrees, elements of Surprise. I argue Creativity contains more element of Surprise. In some cases the element of Surprise is too great to be tolerated [apparently they placed Marconi in an insane asylum when he created the vision which led to wireless communication]. In other cases the element of Surprise shows up in revolutionary art forms [such as the jump-shift of Picasso’s art and Mozart’s music].
While, to my knowledge, Napoleon Hill did not present arguments in this direction, I believe his description of the two types of Imagination - synthetic imagination and creative imagination - provides an excellent way to describe the difference between Innovation and Creativity.
Here is an excerpt from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, (1937):
Synthetic Imagination – Through this faculty, one may arrange old concepts, ideas, or plans into new combinations. This faculty creates nothing. It merely works with the material of experience, education, and observation with which it is fed. It is the faculty used most by the inventor, with the exception of the “genius” who draws upon the creative imagination, when he cannot solve his problem through synthetic imagination.
Creative Imagination - Through the faculty of creative imagination, the finite mind of man has direct communication with Infinite Intelligence. It is the faculty through which “hunches” and “inspirations” are received. It is by this faculty that all basic, or new ideas are handed over to man. It is through this faculty that one individual may “tune in” or communicate with the subconscious minds of other men.
My point is: when we have successfully used what Napoleon Hill called synthetic imagination the result is a thing of Innovation and when we have successfully used what Napoleon Hill called creative imagination the result is a thing of Creativity.
In simplest terms:
- Innovation is adjusting or repackaging existing things.
- Creativity brings new things.
Napoleon Hill described, as many others have done since [using different words], how to go about the processes of developing skills related to both synthetic imagination and creative imagination.
The process he outlined for developing skills related to creative imagination will not be well-received by some...perhaps many. For example, some people firmly believe Creativity is something you are born with...or not born with. That is, Creativity cannot be learned. Other folks, my favourite being Edward De Bono, prove through training Creativity can indeed be learned.
And, what about that Infinite Intelligence thing Napoleon Hill talked about? Some will be very comfortable considering that to be God. Some will be extremely uncomfortable with the whole chapter of the book.
Regardless, few will argue against the existence of the amazing human experience we call “hunches”.
That alone provides enough common ground for explaining the difference between Innovation and Creativity.
With all that and much more considered:
Innovation happens when we think. Innovation happens when we consciously engage the logical and deductive workings of our brains...and we might as well call that thinking process and the brain parts used in that thinking process our synthetic imagination. So, we can revise our definition of Business Innovation as follows:
Business Innovation [def’n]:
arranging old concepts, ideas, or plans into new combinations to solve customers’ problems or satisfy customers’ needs
Creativity happens when “flashes of inspirations” or “hunches” come to our consciousness. Since it is nicer to think each of us possesses a level of creativity and it is nicer to think each of us can learn to be more creative...we might as well call “inspirations” and “hunches” gifts of our creative imagination. So, we can define Business Creativity as follows:
Business Creativity [def’n]:
using “flashes of inspirations” or “hunches”, the elite gifts of our imaginations, to solve customers’ problems or satisfy customers’ needs
- The definitions of Innovation and Creativity contain the phrase “to solve customers’ problems or satisfy customers’ needs”. The phrase is a qualifier, intentionally added to draw attention to the fact business innovation and creativity must serve a purpose and that purpose must be tested in terms of ‘value added’ as perceived by customers. This is required under the Values–Culture–Communication–Value philosophy, which is introduced at http://www.activestor.ca/post/2010/06/17/Do-family-businesses-have-better-values.aspx
- Napoleon Hill link http://www.naphill.org