What's the Difference between Creativity and Innovation?

What's the Difference between Creativity and Innovation?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, โ€˜Every organisation must prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.โ€™ 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 organisations 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.

image credit: getstarted

Follow @ixchat on twitter

Don’t miss an article (4,500+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed and join our Innovation Excellence group!

Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.

Paul Sloane




Four ways you can ensure employees take accountability for their work

By Hubert Day | April 5, 2023

One of the most important driving factors for any successful business is a high-performing team. Having people working for you…

Read More

What is digital upskilling and why is it important?

By Hubert Day | February 15, 2023

            Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash In a world of business that never stands…

Read More

No Comments

  1. Ernesto Gordillo on August 6, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Excuse me but I disagree with you in one point. Not all invention in an innovation. As you tell, an invention “might be a product or device or method that has never existed before”. BUT:
    a) An invention not always arrive to the market. If someone invent something amazing but the company doesn’t believe in it, it’s not an innovation.
    b) An invention not always have success. Even if it’s a good product, the technical adventages don’t ensure the success.

  2. Charlie Garland on August 8, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Paul – this is a great little article…simple, to the point, relevant, and (IMHO) fundamentally accurate. Everyone does, and probably will, always retain their own definitions for these terms, but the bottom line is that folks like you and I are forever “evangelizing” clarity, understanding, and effective use of these topics. Your article here goes a long way toward supporting that.

    I would make a small suggestion, and insert the concept of value-creation into your definition of innovation. I like to add yet another (admittedly superfluous, but helpful nonetheless) caveat to my own conceptualization of innovation as emerging “through the unique use of available resources.”

    Similarly, you choose to include “recognized as the product of some unique insight”…which is fine, if that helps anyone to more comfortably and effectively contemplate these differences.

    Bottom line: great work getting a valuable message out. Please keep it up ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ernesto Gordillo on August 11, 2012 at 3:31 am

      You’re right Charlie. The concept of value-creation is probably the most important part of the concept of innovation and that’s what I tried to say with my first comment ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. John Wolpert on August 12, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Paul, great to see folks trying to achieve clarity on the different terms that float around the “innovation” space. I think you are right, of course, to separate innovation from creativity, though based on our research there is still much confusion that persists when you say that innovation happens when you simply implement a creative idea.

    I think the other I-word that you need here to sort it out is, “Improvement.” Here’s how we sort it on https://innosanity.com :

    Innovation is a paradigm shift in how a group of people perceive and organize themselves. When you change how people perceive the world (or a domain) and live their lives, you have innovation.

    Improvement is what most companies really want when they talk about innovation. It is what you (quoting Clayton Christensen) are calling “incremental” or “sustaining” innovation. I have a real problem with the notion of calling improvements “incremental innovation,” and am on a tear to stamp it out, so forgive me. Strictly speaking, given the above notion of innovation, there can be no such thing as “incremental” innovation. If a change – even a radical change – results in improving one’s current business without changing the nature of it, then it is an improvement, even a radical improvement, perhaps. It doesn’t need the extra moniker of “innovation.”

    I think the problem is that most people really like the word innovation, and don’t feel that “Improvement” conveys the weight that significant changes in the current business deserve.

    Naturally, what I’m saying would significantly reduce the scope of innovation. It would mean that there would be a lot more popular websites called something like “Improvement Excellence”. ๐Ÿ™‚ And really, that is as it should be. Nobody wants to change the business they are in, if they can improve it instead.

  4. casino gambling on March 2, 2013 at 2:28 am

    I have fun with, cause I discovered just what I was looking for.
    You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  5. djeket sango jean dominique on July 19, 2013 at 8:52 am

    according to me creativity is the ability to bring something new into being but innovation is the ability to do something that provide a solution for a problem

  6. misgie on August 21, 2013 at 7:27 am

    changing ways of thinking by itself is an innovation so creativity without changing into implementation might
    be considered as innovation

  7. ABRAHAM LEHABIAN SHATTY on March 15, 2014 at 7:19 am

    creativity is the way of coming up with something new, and ways of coming up with a new thing from an already existing thing to come up with a product that can be offered for sale
    innovation is the way of achieving and implementation of something new that will lead a business t success

Leave a Comment