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  1. Career Advice
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  3. Being innovative and creative
Being Innovative and Creative

Lotte van Rijswijk

Being innovative and creative

Artwork by: Stas Podgornov

  • Creativity vs. Innovation

“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science" — Albert Einstein

Creativity vs. Innovation

The main difference between creativity and innovation is focus.

Creativity is about unleashing the potential of the mind to conceive new ideas. Those concepts could manifest themselves in any number of ways, but most often, they become something we can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. However, creative ideas can also be thought experiments within a person’s mind. Creativity is subjective, making it hard to measure, as our creative friends assert.

Innovation, on the other hand, is completely measurable. Innovation is about introducing change into relatively stable systems. It is also concerned with the work required to make an idea viable. By identifying an unrecognized and unmet need, an organization can use innovation to apply its creative resources to design an appropriate solution and reap a return on its investment.

Organizations often chase creativity, but what they really need to pursue is innovation. The introduction of a common language for innovation enables organizations to better measure milestones in their innovative efforts. Innovation can be defined as 3 distinct spaces:

  • Inspiration: during which the problem that motivates solution-finding is identified

  • Ideation: the process of generating and developing ideas

  • Implementation: the activities that enable a creative idea to move from the drawing board to the marketplace

Any design thinking-based project may loop back to an earlier space more than once as a team explores, develops, and implements its idea.

The very term “innovation” implies something new and different. Paying attention to companies that are consistently innovative in their industries is always a good practice. Consider these companies that use the principles of “innovation” to achieve their strategic goals:

  • Kaiser Permanente is one of the largest not-for-profit health providers in the USA. Kaiser’s National Facilities Services group has been working, for over five years, on the Total Health Environment, a program applying innovation to every aspect of Kaiser’s operations, from medical records to color palettes. The results speak for themselves: improved patient health, satisfaction, soundness of sleep, speed of healing, and cost control.

  • Square is particularly associated with innovation since its plug-in device helps millions of mobile vendors and small business owners. No longer are they confined to cash payments or expensive credit card machines. Square noticed that the economy was quickly becoming paperless and provided customers a way to keep up.

Creativity is important in today’s business world, but it is really only the beginning. Organizations need to foster creativity. Driving business results by running ideas through an innovation process puts those ideas to work — for companies and their customers. Creativity is the price of admission, but it is innovation that pays the bills.

Action: Create a List of 20 Different Uses for Your Company’s Product or Service

A classic creativity exercise is to find 20 different uses for a product or service for your company. If you work in a service company, this may not be possible; so instead, brainstorm 20 new services you could offer using your existing employees or resources. This exercise not only stretches your imagination, but focuses it on key components of your business and so can result in practical ideas.

Action: Develop a New Idea for Solving a Problem

Start with Creating a Mind Map

Mind maps are so named because they closely reflect the way the brain actually works. To create a mind map, simply take a blank piece of paper and in the center draw the main idea that you want to think creatively about. From that central idea draw branches off to ideas that relate to that idea. From each of these ideas, you can draw off further branches of sub-ideas that relate to them.

Network and Brainstorm with Creative People

The next way to enhance your creativity is to share your ideas and mind map with creative personality types. They will challenge you and will provide an inflow of ideas and concepts.

Action: Block Time Each Week for Creative Thought and Write Ideas in a Notebook

Schedule time each week to just brainstorm and think of creative ways to solve business problems you, your department, or your company are facing.  Companies like Google and Facebook actually encourage their employees to specifically block time on their calendar to work on whatever projects interest them or to brainstorm new ideas.

Keep a notebook for jotting down ideas, needs of customers, feedback from customers, logos or ads that are eye-catching, inspiring phrases, etc.  These free-thought ideas may be useful in the future on a project or in solving a business need.

Action: Get in a Creative Frame of Mind Prior to Starting a Meeting

Before a meeting in which you and your team need to be creative, start the meeting differently by playing a creative/problem-solving game, like Apples to Apples, Sudoku, or Pictionary.  Playing a game gets participants into a different frame of mind before getting down to business.  It opens up their creative thinking and can lead to potentially better ideas when you are working to solve your business problem.

Action: Reading Resources

Harvard Business Review: HBR's 10 must Reads on Innovation with featured article “The Discipline of Innovation, by Peter F. Drucker

Innovation and Entrepreneurship, by Peter Drucker

Lotte van Rijswijk

An ambitious Content Team Lead working with since 2022, Lotte collaborates with all members of the team from writers to illustrators to ensure high-quality content across platforms. Always interested in finding new trends and topics to help improve offerings, she also oversees other team members and works to support them wherever possible.

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