Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Creativity and Innovation are Not Interchangeable

It has been interesting to me how interchangeable the words 'creativity' and 'innovation' have become - particularly in the business community. The truth is that while they are clearly connected and intertwined, they are not interchangeable. The National Creativity Network and the Lincoln Center Institute have both adopted the ICI Framework: Imagination is the capacity to conceive of what is not (spark); Creativity is imagination applied (process); and Innovation is unique or novel creativity (product). I think this framework is critically important to those of us dedicated to advancing the creativity of our communities and anyone interested in widening the capacity to be innovative.

I have been interviewing human resource executives to understand if they look for and develop creativity skills in their talent - and what skills gaps they may be finding linked to their school preparation. The executives in manufacturing say "we don't talk about creativity because it is too squishy, too artsy; we have to talk about innovation because that is about product development and ROI". So, where does he think the capacity to innovate comes from - breathing the air in his business environment? The business community is generally interested in what drives to the bottom line and they want to get there as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. Understandable, and yet, I fear they are missing a huge opportunity for an authentic competitive edge by looking for and fostering the creative skill set of their talent. They are missing the key differentiator - the capacity of their talent to be creative so that they contribute to innovation.

Everyone can be creative and the creative process is open to be nurtured by anyone. And yet, by the time we are adults we rarely describe ourselves as 'creative' - it is just not on our radar screen. And so, when our career track is calling on us to think more creatively about our options, and our workplace is screaming for more innovation, why is it we don't look at how we are developing our own and the collective creative capacity - our ability to express our best potential and resonate with the potential of everyone around us.

Innovation will absolutely not happen without a strongly developed creative skill set. If we are serious about optimizing our innovative abilities then we need to maximize our creative capital. And we need to recognize that creativity and innovation are two parts of the Imagination/Creativity/Innovation framework.

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