Defining Creativity and Innovation
Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterized by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing.
If you have ideas but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.
“Creativity is a combinatorial force: it’s our ability to tap into our ‘inner’ pool of resources – knowledge, insight, information, inspiration and all the fragments populating our minds – that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world and to combine them in extraordinary new ways.” — Maria Popova, Brainpickings
“Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy.” – Rollo May, The Courage to Create
Is this possible in business? I believe so, but you have to be willing to take risks and progress through discomfort to get to the finish line.
“A product is creative when it is (a) novel and (b) appropriate. A novel product is original not predictable. The bigger the concept, and the more the product stimulates further work and ideas, the more the product is creative.”
—Sternberg & Lubart, Defying the Crowd
What is Innovation?
Innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product, service or process that creates value for business, government or society.
Some people say creativity has nothing to do with innovation— that innovation is a discipline, implying that creativity is not. Well, I disagree. Creativity is also a discipline and a crucial part of the innovation equation. There is no innovation without creativity. The key metric in both creativity and innovation is value creation.
Creativity and Economic Development:
We are living in the age of creativity. Daniel Pink in his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future (2006) defines Economic Development as:
1. Agriculture Age (farmers)
2. Industrial Age (factory workers)
3. Information Age (knowledge workers)
4. Conceptual Age (creators and empathizers)
Pink argues that left-brain linear, analytical computer-like thinking is being replaced by right-brain empathy, inventiveness, and understanding as skills most needed by business. In other words, creativity gives you a competitive advantage by adding value to your service or product and differentiating your business from the competition.
As Sam Palmisano said when he was CEO of IBM (2004), “Either you innovate or you’re in commodity hell. If you do what everybody else does, you have a low-margin business. That’s not where we want to be.” (1)
In 2012 IBM started reinventing itself to become a design company, investing $100 million USD to hire designers and educate 100,000 employees to become design thinkers. (2) IBM helped expand design thinking at the organization over three years to penetrate one-quarter of the entire portfolio, enabling $18.6M in increased profits.(3)
Creativity is the Most Crucial Factor for Future Success
The effects of rising complexity call for CEOs and their teams to lead with bold creativity, connect with customers in imaginative ways and design their operations for speed and flexibility to position their organizations for twenty-first-century success.
The Creativity Gap
A 2012 Adobe study on creativity shows 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society, yet a striking minority – only 1 in 4 people – believe they are living up to their own creative potential.
Can creativity be learned?
The short answer is yes. A study by George Land reveals that we are naturally creative and as we grow up we learn to be uncreative. Creativity is a skill that can be developed and a process that can be managed.
Creativity begins with a foundation of knowledge, learning a discipline, and mastering a way of thinking. You can learn to be creative by experimenting, exploring, questioning assumptions, using imagination and synthesising information. Learning to be creative is akin to learning a sport. It requires practice to develop the right muscles and a supportive environment in which to flourish.
Studies by Clayton M. Christensen and his researchers uncovered The Innovators DNA: Your ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of five key behaviors that optimize your brain for discovery:
- Associating: drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields
- Questioning: posing queries that challenge common wisdom
- Observing: scrutinizing the behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things
- Networking: meeting people with different ideas and perspectives
- Experimenting: constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge