What is the Difference Between Innovation and Creativity?

How is an Invention Different from an Innovation?

What is the Difference Between Innovation and Creativity?Discussions about innovation are often made difficult because people are unclear about the exact meanings of some key terms. In particular there is confusion about the difference between creativity, innovation and invention. Let us start with some definitions:

  • “Creativity is the capability or act of conceiving something original or unusual.”
  • “Innovation is the implementation of something new.”
  • “Invention is the creation of something that has never been made before and is recognized as the product of some unique insight.”

If you have a brainstorm meeting and dream up dozens of new ideas then you have displayed creativity but there is no innovation until something gets implemented. Somebody has to take a risk and deliver something for a creative idea to be turned into an innovation. An invention might be a product or device or method that has never existed before. So every invention is an innovation. But every innovation is not an invention. When your company first published its website that was a major innovation for the company even though many other websites already existed.

We tend to think of an innovation as a new product but you can innovate with a new process, method, business model, partnership, route to market or marketing method. Indeed every aspect of your business operation is a candidate for innovation. Peter Drucker said, ‘Every organization must prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.’ So do not restrict your vision of innovation to products. Some of the most powerful innovations you can make are in business methods and customer services. If we look at companies like Dell, eBay and Amazon we see that their great innovations were with their business models rather than in new products.

Innovations can be incremental or radical. Every improvement that you make in products or services can be seen as an incremental innovation. Most businesses and most managers are good at incremental innovation.

They see problems in the current set-up and they fix them. Radical innovations involve finding an entirely new way to do things. As such they are often risky and difficult to implement. Most larger organizations and most managers are poor at radical innovation. If you had been making LP records then you could have introduced incremental innovations in your design and marketing. However if this was your strategy then a radical innovation, the CD, would eventually kill you. The CD manufacturer could similarly introduce various incremental improvements. Once again a radical innovation, music downloads over the internet, would make your offering obsolete. So we need to constantly look for incremental innovations and radical innovations. We need to develop creativity and turn it quickly into innovation.

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Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader published by Kogan-Page.

Paul Sloane




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  1. Kristina Port on June 8, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Agree that innovation is the implementation of the creative idea, and one should also note that necessity being the mother of invention is more abundantly seen now with the economic downturn. Doing things differently has always been the consideration of small business models, and the relative corporate giants are unable to correct and implement because of their scale.

    I always liken the course correction with the analogy of the Titanic trying to avert the iceberg. Because of the immense size (large corporation), course correction is slow, and many times imminent impediments, although apparent can not be avoided, whereas with a smaller vessel (small business) course corrections can be made on the fly, and can keep the operation afloat.

  2. Juan Felipe Herrera on June 9, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Dear Paul Sloane

    I am a studen of management of technology, and I am agree with educate the people, because, not everybody uses well the terms: creativity, invention and innovation. but…

    I don´t agree when you said “An invention might be a product or device or method that has never existed before. *So every invention is an innovation*” because I can do a new artefact in a remote place, but if this thing do not have repercution social or economic is not an innovation, but it is an invention (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovation#Economic_conceptions).

    Best regards

  3. Willi on June 10, 2010 at 7:34 am

    hello,my english is not very well but ich think i understand the main points of this nice discussion….by my mind there is no “really” difference between creativity and innovation!why-cause i like to see creativity like a kind of “condition” for innovation….invention,no matter which intention behind could be a real one, only if its a “product” that never existed before and this requires sometimes creativity…

    nice day

  4. jayverdhan on July 20, 2010 at 5:32 am

    According to my small expereince in this world I think Innovation does require creativity and creativity is all about simplyfying , improving and making more efficient to our existing system or product…and the outtake of this transformation is innovation.

    Whereas invention is a solution based on sceince concepts to simplify life.


  5. Jim Dawton on July 20, 2010 at 7:50 am

    The former Department of Trade and Industry in the UK defined innovation as something like ‘the successful commercialisation of a novel idea’. This works for me:

    creativity – ideas
    invention – novel ideas
    innovation – delivery of novel ideas.

    Innovation is the hardest.

    In the UK, we’ve been looking in the wrong place for innovation because we thought it was invention. We been looking to academia (who come up with novel ideas) when we should have been looking to industry (who delivery novel ideas).

    I’m working on changing this attitude.

  6. Mark on August 3, 2010 at 5:32 am

    Innovatation costs money….
    creativity is free!

  7. NABIRYO FARIDAH on October 3, 2012 at 5:47 am

    Your ideas have helped me thanks

  8. ahmad salman on November 17, 2012 at 7:01 am

    plz send all notes of creativity or innovation,i am student of mba.

  9. Ganesh P on January 14, 2013 at 2:15 am

    I agree with What Mark says.. Creativity costs less but Innovation requires huge investment with repect to time, efforts, money, manpower, energy, space etc etc. But without creativity innovation and invention will not lead. Being creative is inherent or one becomes creative through experience,education, training etc???. Dont you think situation makes man to become creative. History plays imp role in becoming creative. Sometimes wrong ideas triggers right thinking and gives birth to creative idea that leads to innovation and invention. But people doesnt value the wrong idea or its originator.

  10. BEATRICE APPIA-OFORI on June 15, 2013 at 5:41 am

    This is wonderful.

  11. Harvel Brown on September 1, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Creation is the ability to manifest that which is in the mind, making it an vital part of the whole.
    Invention can only be done with things that already exist through creation.

  12. stella on September 19, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Hi, personally i think innovation and creativity are interlinked because for one to innovate he/she must be creative in mind and action.

  13. Bangase Esther on February 6, 2014 at 8:30 am

    yeah, very true, but that innovation and/or invention should be helpful to society and satisfy consumer needs

  14. Dan Asazobor on May 19, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    A well Educative discution, the World is always waiting For Innovations,so always strive to convert your invention to innovation. As i always Say,If you Don’t INNOVATE,you STAGNATE…
    from:inventor Dan-Asazobor
    (Nigerian inventor)

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