by Cathy Dunn and Phil Allcock

Creativity versus innovation

These two terms are frequently taken to mean the same thing. This causes confusion. So, just to be clear...

There is an obvious link between innovation and creativity, in that both concepts deal with the idea of something being new or different. Creativity, though, has a different quality associated with it: that of ‘being creative’. This is usually described as having ‘originality of thought’ or ‘showing imagination’. Unfortunately the outcome of our educational processes is that, in order to ‘succeed’, original thinking is often not valued and so gets buried. Fortunately, though, as we covered in Innovation isn’t..., creativity is not a necessary or sole requirement for innovation and is often just a small part of the picture.

Innovation is creativity with a job to do.

John Emmerling

To emphasise the point made in Innovation isn’t..., innovation is much more the application or introduction of new or different ideas to existing situations, with the aim of improving processes and products and giving a new lease of life to the current state. Hence we do not always need to produce original or completely new ideas to innovate.

Making the differentiation between innovation and creativity enables us to see that, as individuals, we can be creative and innovative, both separately and together. In fact, we are innovative each time we are faced with new situations, in that we look into our previous experience, choose those aspects from the past that seem likely to help us deal with the current issue and put them together in a slightly different way.