The difference between Creativity and Innovation

Posted by on February 18, 2013

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My previous post introduced a useful structure from Dr Lum Phui Yuen at ThinkingSphere to help us in the creativity process.  The process moves from generating ideas, to working out possible solutions, to developing a plan of action.  When the plan is executed, and we have an outcome, we have moved from creativity to innovation.

In this post, I will look at the difference between creativity and innovation.  Often both terms are used together, or they may be used as alternatives for one another.  An HBR blog on this topic noted that managers usually equate innovation with creativity.  Here is my take on the two:

  •  Creativity is about using imagination and original thinking to develop new ideas.
  •  Innovation is about executing the ideas to bring about something new.

For most of us, our opportunities to be creative will centre around needs and problems in our workplaces or in our homes.  That is: somewhere, sometime, we will need to find an effective solution to a particular situation, e.g. something is not working correctly, and we need it fixed ASAP.

Creativity and creative thinking are commonly linked to problem solving (Creativity is also required for activities such as story-telling, and it is fundamental to inventing – including accidental inventions, such as the potato chip). In my scenario of something not working properly (like, say, a business process), creativity helps us to devise a solution, and innovation comes when we bring about improvements to the process that correct the problem).

I personally find that when I have a particular problem or need to deal with, I can usually come up with some creative options.  Sometimes, I have a concept, or maybe even a mental image of the ‘end-state’ that I want to achieve, but I may need help to work out the various steps to make my plan.  And I must confess, I am not always the ‘doer’ when it comes to executing the plan.

The bottom line is that being creative and producing fresh, wonderful ideas is the sexy, exciting part.  But execution can be boring, difficult and even career-threatening (if we don’t get it right).  The problem here is that innovation is about implementing change, which can make people uncomfortable.  However, unless somebody steps up and accepts the responsibility to execute the plan, all of our good creative work may be in vain.

This post we have two free nuggets.  The first is a short blog post “What’s the difference between Creativity and Innovation?”, written by Paul Sloane, who is a contributing author at  Paul’s post will take about 3 minutes of reading time.  I found it informative, although perhaps one of his examples is not very Gen Y-friendly (for LP, think ‘vinyl’).  In summary, Paul:

  •  defines creativity, innovation, and ’invention’,
  •  outlines how innovation covers products, processes, methods, models, etc.,
  •  gives an explanation of incremental and radical innovation.

You will find Paul’s post at:

The second free nugget is a short (1min:21sec) video “What is Innovation?”, from Nova Malaysia, which is a Malaysian government initiative to champion innovation initiatives. Here is the link to the video:
[Note: in the YouTube window, click the Show more label below the upload date for some additional information]

Bringing this all together, the diagram below offers an end-to-end representation, from the point of need, through the creativity process, to the innovation process, and then to the solution in operation.

From Creativity to Innovation

From Creativity to Innovation

This is the third post in a row on creativity, so we will move to a new topic in my next post.  In the meantime, enjoy the two free nuggets.

Coming next:  Change – the office of the future

Link to HBR Blog:


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One Response to The difference between Creativity and Innovation

  1. Marlene Hopkins

    Hi Kootukettu Community,

    Thank you for your comment “Good information thank you closely monitor your success …”

    It is often overlooked that coming up with the idea is just the start – we must develop a plan to bring the idea to reality, and then we need to execute the plan. Otherwise, all of our brilliant thinking will be wasted.

    Creativity without innovation is nothing more than a good intention; execution is needed to bring success.

    For me personally, the first bit is often easy, but I often need help with the rest.

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