May 26, 2015

What is the difference between creativity and innovation ?



What is the difference between creativity and innovation? A responsible procedure.

The words are used interchangeably and I don’t understand the difference when people use them in a range of contexts. In 2010 IBM’s CEO’s survey results proclaimed that creativity was the ‘Most Crucial Factor’ for future success. By 2012 the same survey results did not use the word creativity as they had replaced it with innovation, offering no real context or comparison on the difference between the two actually was.

Creativity is a cognitive process of coming up with ideas and could be seen as the 1% inspiration, Thomas Edison was famous for quoting. Given the right conditions anyone can do this. But ideas can sit on a post it note or in a presentation and go no where. What is their true value to a business if they create no value beyond presentations, conversations and stationary.

‘Creativity is not the miraculous road to business growth and affluence that is so abundantly claimed these days’

This is quote is from Theodore Levitt at professor of marketing at Harvard in his HBR article entitled ‘Creativity isn’t enough’. The interesting thing he looks to explore is the concept of pure creativity being an irresponsible business practice. I do believe there are creative genius’s out there but the focus should not be on their ideas, it should be on the entire process of coming up with ideas and making them happen. The premise of the book Making Ideas Happen by Behance’s Scott Belsky gives a great stories of well known creative people but the focus is not on their ideas as much as their disciplined individual procedure they use i delivering ideas to maximise their value.

Innovation is the successful exploitation of ideas to maximise their value and is Eddison’s missing 99% perspiration. This was Levitt’s point, in that creativity is an ‘irresponsible’ approach to business because if a business wants to grow, you need an entire process of taking that idea and maximising its value. In short, innovation is making ideas happen and this needs a disciplined approach to maximise the opportunity to create value. A speculation you could make from the difference in IBM surveys is that the CEO’s started to realise that you can have all the ideas in the world, but if you don’t successfully execute them, then there is no value to the business.  What is the process you might ask ?. I have been researching this question across business, design and art for years including the role of individual discipline in connection and opposition to the process of a group. (Probably because I went to a military school). I hope to share some of my findings in further posts.

Lets bring this back to earth a little bit. When you learnt to ride a bike when you were young. Do you remember your parents explaining it to you or do you remember when you took off for the first time without help ? You only really learnt when you got on and started peddling. You may have fallen over a few times but persistence was the key thing to keep you going until you got it right. At Hirsch&Mann we are a design and technology consultancy that knows how to make innovation happen. We don’t believe in perfect ideas, we believe in a process that explores the unknown. We know in order to that, you need to evolve embryonic concepts into ideas that make an impact. Our process that combines design thinking and lean startup methodologies evolves embryonic ideas into great executions. This approach explores unknown areas and maximises the probability to add value to an organisation now and in the future.

We are a small studio but in the last two weeks alone we have launched two window installations to celebrate London Tech City Startups at the MOMA stores in New York. We helped our sister company Technology Will Save Us launch a popup shop in Selfridges around the concept of placemaking, or creating places where people want to spend their time (not just their money). We created a connected store environment for Unilever’s French mustard brand Maille in London to blend their online and real store environments. As well as making a range of prototypes for a huge robotic music installation in Africa that we are delivering this week. All four are more than just a simple creative idea. Our team in the studio and our huge line up of collaborators from companies to freelancers have come together to evolve the original concepts and through out the process given the idea a greater chance of success. Through bringing in experts to evolve elements as well as continually testing them as we went, we have given ourselves and our clients more up to date data to make decisions and also maximised the value created.

If Mr Levitt was still alive, I would love to have him over for dinner and ask him if he thought our approach was responsible enough. (I mentally compare him to my old school Sergeant who drove discipline with his HUGE presence). I am sure he wouldn’t be impressed by all the post it notes on my walls. I expect he would love to discuss how our disciplined approach helps make decisions and deliver a greater impact by getting them out into the world.

Originally posted on Michael Johnston’s Linkedin