Three Simple Rules for Successfully Balancing Creativity and Innovation

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on Monday, 13 October 2014 in Blog Posts


Creativity and innovation are commonly confused. Both activities are key to growing most businesses; however, creativity and innovation fulfill very different functions.

Creativity generates original ideas, while innovation is the result of changing existing ideas or methods. Both creativity and innovation are required for most businesses. A screenwriter, for example, may create a brilliant screenplay, which may be utilized by a producer in an innovative movie. This example shows both creativity with the screenplay that had heretofore not existed, and innovation by the making a different type of movie.

All too often, we see examples of companies that suffer because of a lack of balance between creativity and innovation.

Here are three simple rules to follow to help you balance these two concepts in your business:

1. Promote creative ideas in excess of what is required.

Every creative idea is not a smash hit. A composer, for instance, may experiment with different chord progressions until he or she lands on something they’re happy with. To expand upon this concept, I submit that creativity needs to be given the latitude within a company to miss the mark, every once in a while. The phrase “Think outside the box” has become overused to the extent that it’s become somewhat of a joke, nowadays, but whoever thought of that term could have more accurately said “Keep the good ideas that land outside the box”. In other words, don’t be misled into thinking that all “outside the box” ideas are good, but you’ll never get the gems if you don’t dig through the mine. To quote Michael Jordan: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take”.


2. Seek change for the purpose of innovation rather than change for the sake of change.
Effective innovation addresses a need, and likewise, innovation that does not address a need is usually a flop. The phrase “know your audience” is often used to convey this idea. An excellent example of innovation run amok is Coca-Cola’s release of “New Coke” in 1985, when consumers had no desire for a replacement to the number one cola brand on the market. Spend time and resources to research and quantify what need your innovation is addressing, and if you can’t clearly identify the need, your innovation is far less likely to succeed.

3.Mix your creative and innovative teams, and shake well.
The creative and innovative functions of your company work best when they work hand-in-hand. Your innovative team, after working hard to quantify needs (see number 2, above), may benefit from sharing that information with the creative team to help inspire creativity, and likewise, a creative team, after having the latitude to develop new ideas, would probably benefit from working with your innovative team to see if there’s a need that any of the new ideas address. The key in all cases is that both the creative and innovative understand and respects the other discipline.

Successful organizations will find that understanding and supporting both the creative and innovative aspects of their operation will help facilitate growth, and allow good ideas to be put to work.

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