As an entrepreneur and business owner I spend a lot of time reading articles, blogs, and research reports on topics related to building and maintaining a successful company. I enjoy the variety of opinions from fellow sojourners, educators, and millionaires, but I have noticed a trend in these outlets where there is a confusion between creativity and innovation.
While there is no earth shattering ill affect from this discourse, the professor in me feels I have to help set the record straight or at least start a conversation to determine if my thoughts hold water. I saw a great quote this morning that exemplified my perspective on the topic it read, "Creativity is thinking up new things and Innovation is doing new things". So I'll give a few examples and we can discuss if you agree.
Dictionary.com defines creativity as, "the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.."
Case Study #1 - Velcro
In 1948, Swiss engineer and amateur mountaineer George de Mestral went hiking in the woods with his dog. Upon arriving back at his home, he took note of the burrs that clung to his clothes and he wondered if such an idea could be useful in commercial application. He studied a burr under a microscope only to discover that they were covered in tiny hooks, which allowed them to grab onto clothes and fur that brushed in passing. After more than eight years of research and work, he created what is known now today as Velcro, a combination of the words “velvet” and “crochet.” Made up of two strips of fabric, one covered in thousands of tiny hooks and the other with thousands of tiny loops, the materials gripped together firmly while still allowing easy release. (livescience.com)
Here we have a perfect demonstration of creativity. Mr. de Mestral may not have had a specific use in mind when he developed Velcro, but he realized that it represented a very creative way to attach two items without adhesive or fasteners.
Merriam-Webster defines innovation as, "the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods".
Case Study #2 - Velcro
As stated previous, Mr. de Mestral may not have had a specific use in mind when he created Velcro, but the eventual perfection of the method fostered innovative uses in subsequent years. For people who suffer from arthritis having shoes and clothing that are able to be secured using Velcro represented innovation. For a medical device such as a blood pressure cuff Velcro allowed them to be able to use it on a wider variety of arm sizes by simply moving the teeth across the fabric and securing the new position, truly innovative.
If I were to give you my differentiation between creativity and innovation it would be that creativity represents a new way of addressing an existing problem and innovation is when that new way of addressing the problem becomes the norm.
I look forward to your thoughts