Creativity Does Not Equal Innovation

by Robert F Brands

Creativity Does Not Equal InnovationInnovation and Creativity are words that are at times used interchangeably in the research and development process, but they have two distinct meanings. While creativity is about coming up with the big idea, innovation is about executing the idea and making it a business success. Do not confuse the two. An organization can certainly have creativity without the right steps to implement innovation.

Innovation implementation calls for a robust, disciplined strategy. It can not be a one-time process, but must occur over and over again to form a steady flow of innovation that sustains long-term profitability. The only way to achieve that is by bringing focus, a road map, screening criteria, and checkpoints to the new product development (NPD) process.

Creativity Does Not Equal Innovation

Many innovation leaders are concerned that adding structure will dampen creativity, but in my experience, structure can actually free the creative spirit. By applying structure that adapts to the needs, size, and culture of an organization, a leader can draw both creativity and innovation out of its team members. Here are some tips for attaining that winning combination.

  • Hold ideation sessions with a diverse and highly charged creative people in your organization – and be sure to keep any restraints off. Do not ignore or override any input from the team. Practical, real world filters can always be added later on, but you want to capitalize on all ideas early in the process.
  • Keep track of meeting decisions and next steps. Delegate responsibility and encourage ownership.
  • Use your motivational skills by creating clear and unwavering deadline pressure, while reinforcing and praising their incremental progress. Apply “Trust with verification”
  • Give team members some incentive for their contributions and achievements. This does not necessarily have to be money – often recognition is a key driver for creative players in your organization; make them the initiative Champion, offer recognition among peers.
  • Create an environment where mistakes are tolerated and free of punitive measures. Remember, the creative process is a ratio, so more attempts at success naturally equates to more failures along the way. Managing failure as a learning experience lets your creatives feel safe and empowered to do their best work.
  • Provide regular feedback and keep the lines of communication open throughout the NPD process.

Last but not least consider some defined “Free Time” with unlimited creativity but accountability to report the outcome aligned with the company Vision, Mission and Strategy.

imagecredit:pencilbugs & smashinghub

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robert brandsRobert Brands is the founder of, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival,” with Martin Kleinman – published Spring 2010 by Wiley (

No comments

  1. Methods & tools + knowledge of industry + time & dedication = Creativity
    Creativity + a business case = Innovation

  2. This is a very defensive article and I don’t understand why.

    Its nice that business consultancy has branched out into the world of innovation and by various definitions created a whole new area of specific expertise to sell to clients. This in itself is an innovation in business consulting that has already dealt with the specifics of entrepreneurship, leadership, six thinking hats and God knows what else.

    There is no unifying definition for innovation since it was innovated as a specific product of its own and so how can you possibly decide that clients must not conflate creativity and innovation? Are you worried that potential clients for innovation services might be tempted away by creativity consultants? This is crass and self serving.

    When IBM found themselves a casualty of the move away from mainframes it was because of the creative impulse that lead to the innovation of smaller and more portable hard-drives of its competitors. The innovation of which had nothing to do with IBM, the innovation from their perspective was unbidden and happened despite any of their wishes for it not to.

    It is what it is, innovate or perish is my own take on things and its not necessary for an entire discipline to have evolved just to promote that simple purpose and if time has passed sufficiently for the market to move on to the next story and away from the innovation specialist consultant, then so be it – its just another phase in the creative destruction that exists as a natural part in all commerce including strategic business consulting.

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