Perspectives

Innovation vs Creativity

You wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that we live in an innovative world. One where the unforeseen can spring up and change an entire sector within a few hours.
You wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that we live in an innovative world. One where the unforeseen can spring up and change an entire sector within a few hours.
Who would have thought, even just a few years ago, that the world’s greatest accommodation provider would own no property? Or the largest taxi company, would own zero cars?

Though these businesses, namely AirBnB and Uber, didn’t just spring out of nowhere. Take AirBnB as an example. Three men couldn’t pay their rent, so, in a flash of creativity, they had an idea – rent out air mattresses to tourists and serve breakfast. When this worked they realised this could be a much bigger idea and so spent the next three years perfecting the execution of it; resulting in a hugely successful unicorn business. From a simple flash of creativity to a billion-dollar innovation.

And herein lies the debate between innovation and creativity – two worlds which have become popular vocabulary within the HR profession in recent years. Two words, which often are confused as the same thing.

But they aren’t.

Ideas aren’t innovation; innovation happens when ideas are implemented. Thomas Edison, one of the greatest innovators of all times, called it correctly when he said “Innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

Creativity is the idea. Innovation is the execution.

An organisation’s capacity for innovation relies on its ability to be creative and then see through the execution of that idea, according to eminent Professors, Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble. Having studied innovation versus creativity for years, in their book – The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge – it is their conclusion that you can calculate an organisation’s capacity for innovation by using the simple formula “creativity multiplied by execution… If either creativity or execution has a score of zero, then the capacity for innovation is zero”.

In the same study, they found that many leaders felt their ability to generate ideas, i.e. be creative, far outweighed their capability for execution. We agree that innovation needs to be seen as a whole; not just as creavitity, or as a managed process. Leading for Innovation means creating a culture in which creativity is fostered and the value of ideas is captured.

Because innovation is what drives growth in the economy, success in our businesses and achievement in our own professional development. Therefore, organisations have to get better at executing ideas. Focusing on the back-end of innovation is where the greatest gains will be made.

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