It’s widely recognised across industries that mastering innovation gives us the competitive edge we need to thrive. With game-changing technologies constantly shifting the ground beneath us, being creative and having the ability to roll out responsive new products and services is vital. A common question that this shift poses is ‘are innovation and creativity the same thing?’ And the answer is yes but no.

They are closely related. Innovation can not happen without creativity as creativity is a major part of the innovation process. Creativity can happen without innovation though. Creative ideas, expressions, perspectives and acts don’t ultimately need to produce any new tangibles. Whereas innovation does.

To be creative all you really need is your imagination which can draw on your all internally held experiences to come up with new connections and perspectives. To innovate successfully though, you first need info from your current external environment. You need input. Observations, data, facts about your industry, customers, resources and so on. And the quality and breadth of the data that goes in will directly impact of the quality of your outputs at the end of the innovation process, so this stage is definitely not to be rushed or skipped past.

After that explorative research has been done, innovation then does require you to get creative and let the imaginative, reflective, playful side of your brain have free reign. This is where creativity and innovation intersect and at this stage of the process, they are arguably the same thing.

But when your brainstorms are over and you’ve got your short list of new services and products that you think would be worth developing, it’s time to leave creativity behind and get your lab-coat on. The next step in the innovation process is about business experimentation. Methodically testing your assumptions and checking that the idea does deliver the outputs that you need it to. And you do all this experimenting at a low-risk level where you can afford to fail.

Only once you have completed this experimental stage will you know which ideas to fully resource and roll-out. And for the roll out to succeed, you want to have organisational and process-led thinking (as opposed to creative thinking) at the fore. This ensures that you’ll be executing your innovation as efficiently and effectively as possible.

So returning to the question of ‘are innovation and creativity the same thing?’ I’d sum up that innovation is an inherently creative process, but one that needs us to extend ourselves beyond creative thinking if it is to succeed. If you want to build up the innovative muscle of your organisation a good approach is draw on the strengths of the whole team, not just the lateral thinking abilities of the most creative members. By levering everyone’s different abilities into the various stages of innovation, you’ll succeed in building a strong innovation capacity into your business.

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