Improving your Creativity and Innovation at Work
In business, creativity and innovation are often used interchangeably. They mean different things. Creativity is the ability to develop something original, new, and unique. It relates specifically to the act of being creative—seeing new things in old objects and ideas. Innovation, or using objects and ideas in new ways, is often the result of creativity. In other words, when you implement creative ideas, the result is innovation.
Being creative is an event or act, whereas innovation is a process. You can be creative about any aspect of work, originating new products, new processes, new services, and so on. But being creative won't always result in innovation. It is only when creative ideas become useful or of value in a corporate sense, that you are being innovative.
People often describe processes such as painting and drawing, composing, or devising new instruments as creative. However, they mistake the process for the creative act. Artists, musicians, composers, and designers do realize new and unique ideas, but they express these acts of creativity through the processes of drawing, painting, composing, or designing. Innovation is a process that does not need the creative act. Something can be innovative without being original or unique. For example, you may apply an old idea in a new way in the workplace.
While the development of a new process by one department is described as creative because it contains an original element, the introduction of flexible working hours in another—not a new idea—may be innovative for that department. Implementing new procedures would also be innovative. In and of themselves, the procedures may not be original or unique, but they may be new to the department using them.
Although there is little consensus among experts, their differences tend to focus on questions of emphasis. It is safe to define creativity as the origination of something new and introduced from scratch, and innovation as the application of novel ideas to new situations. In other words:
- Creativity—Creativity is evident in the development of original artwork, literature, music, scientific theories, and inventions. In the workplace, new ideas stemming from brainstorming sessions, the origination of new products, and the design of new or unique information brochures are examples of creativity.
- Innovation—Examples of workplace innovation include the introduction of different procedures into a department, the introduction of different processes to improve work methods, and the introduction of different products to a new area of the business.
Understanding the important differences between creativity and innovation will help you to find solutions to workplace problems and challenges and will encourage you to take a more proactive approach to your job.
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