Business, public service, education and the not-for-profit sector are all hearing stakeholders calling

for more and more innovation, creativity or enterprise. But these things mean very different things to different people. Paradoxically, we are faced with a need for something, which is widely seen as important but which, is undefined. It does not help that "creativity" has strong associations with the special artistic talents of a small number of exceptional people: creative geniuses like Beethoven, Rodin, Picasso or Shakespeare. People in business often claim to be uncreative for this reason.

Innovation also challenges existing ways of doing things. It is a form of change, and people will react as they do to any change. The more surprising the innovation, the more extreme the reaction will tend to be positive or negative. Emotions and organisational politics can run high in response to innovation and creativity!

As working definitions, we will assume the following :


Creativity is the ability to think a new idea. (This includes the ability to rethink an old idea for example, to think of a new application for an existing technology). Innovation is the process by which the new idea is put into practice.


This definition of creativity allows for the artistic creative genius and the brilliant inventor, but also enables everyone to be creative, since anyone can have a new idea.

The definition of innovation links the world of ideas to the world of human affairs, including business. (For brevity, "innovation" will be used to mean "innovation and creativity").

The scope of innovation can be small or large. At one end of the scale lies a single tiny refinement to a simple product;at the other lie whole new business strategies, paradigms and philosophies. Innovation also acts along the entire spectrum from "soft" to "hard", where soft envisages communication, vision, and people's behaviour and hard stands for structure, organisational forms, procedures and IT systems. Innovation and creativity are be addressed every where in the organisation:

Leadership Leaders play several crucial roles in innovation. They can help the organisation understand its innovative capacity and its strategic need for innovation, and then inspire the organisation with a sense of strategic purpose.

Leaders' values influence the behaviour of the whole organisation. Their attitude to risk and to honest error can help create a climate where new ideas are welcomed and mistakes are accepted as a by-product of enterprise.

If he has the courage and wisdom to recognise that his own patterns of thinking may not be sufficient for the future, he can help their organisation to get in mental shape for that future.

She can create resource structures that nurture innovation. And every leader can be a skills coach to their executive team, demonstrating how to listen to new propositions attentively and with an open mind.

Through these roles, a leader can foster great innovation irrespective of their personal style and preferences in dress!

Policy & Strategy A separate innovation agenda is usually less helpful than identifying where innovation fits within the organisation's policy and strategy.

Nor does innovation automatically have to have top priority in the short term. An understanding of markets and the organisation's innovative capability may suggest better alternative strategies (e.g. 'fast follower', excellent low-cost deliverer, or trusted partner).

The "innovator's dilemma" (Clayton Christensen) is that long-term radical innovations are often ignored or rejected by companies that focus too closely on existing customer needs and profitability.

Sometimes an organisation needs to completely reframe its strategic position and thinking.

People Employees, contract staff and volunteers are a huge fund of ideas. They are also in daily direct contact with other stakeholders (customers, suppliers, competitors) who will generate ideas for innovation. Effective communication channels will share and convey these ideas within the organisation.

How innovation is recognised and rewarded influences the internal climate for change.

A freely operating 'labour market' within the organisation helps people move to pursue their ideas. This may unleash entrepreneurial or 'intrapreneurial' thinking and behaviour. The organ isation and its people management processes need to be ready for this.

Creative and innovative thinking, skills and tools can be learned and practised. So can ways to overcome or get around the blocks to creativity that naturally occur to anyone from time to time.

Partnerships & Resources Ideas are the principal resource of innovation. How they are treated is the principal resource management question.

Organisations need to understand how to create and manage intellectual capital and the value of knowledge.

Organisations need new ways of looking for partners. Traditional groupings may not be optimal for future market opportunities.

Physical environments affect people's ability to innovate. Some organisations put great emphasis on overtly "creative" or even "crazy" surroundings. Crazy may be going too far what seems to work is stimulus and flexibility.

Processes Certain processes are seen as natural parts of innovation: new product development NPD, for example, or research and development R&D, market scanning and suggestions schemes.

But many other processes (especially support processes) can affect an organisation's ability to innovate. Think of the impact of investment appraisal, customer relationship management CRM, recruitment, IT systems, bid management, benchmarking, performance measurement and management.

Process innovation can mean inventing a new process. It can also mean finding new ways to improve an existing process including complete redesign.

Project and process orientated people can be creative too. They often adopt structured creativity tools very readily.

Continuous improvement kaizen is sometimes misunderstood as the enemy of innovation. Both are necessary neither is sufficient alone.

A best practice process for innovation identified by a Europe-wide EFQM Benchmarking Study in 1999 is:

1. Idea generation. 2. Idea collection. 3. Selection. 4. Development. 5. Implementation. 6. Follow-up and review. The Encarta Dictionary provides the following definition of creativity: Being creative - The quality of being creative. Imaginative ability The ability to use the imagination to develop new and original ideas or things.

(Photo Credit SAeroZar)

Creativity is a noun. It is the quality of being creative. In the concise Oxford dictionary creative is defined as:

creating; able to create; inventive, imaginative; showing imagination as well as routine skill

People tend to confuse creativity with innovation; creativity is the getting of ideas, innovation is the implementation.

Creativity is inherently easier than innovation. What is often missing is not creativity in the ideacreating sense but innovation in terms of an action producing sense, i.e. bringing ideas to fruition.

Creativity is the driving force behind new knowledge creation and the generation of innovative outputs. Businesses that are able to effectively source and absorb knowledge and information are more likely to apply it creatively.

Being creative is thought to be much easier than the ability to actually implement ideas. Assumptions that creativity automatically leads to innovation are incorrect.

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