Last night I was at an event where I woman said, “I want to get in touch with my creativity. I used to paint and play music, but no longer do that.”
This got me thinking about how we throw around a lot of terms with no real clarity around what they mean.
Here are four terms that people use interchangeably.
- Invention, from my perspective, invention is the creation of something that previously was not in existence. The focus is not on commercial value but rather on novelty.
- Innovation, on the other hand, is an end-to-end process that starts with a specific problem, challenge or opportunity and results in commercial value (however that is defined for the organization).
- Creativity is one step in the innovation process. When you have a defined problem/opportunity, creativity is the act of finding a solution.
- Artistic endeavors are things like music, painting, and photography. There may be commercial value. But the primary focus is often on the experience.
You might think I am splitting hairs discussing the differences between these terms. But language is important to any culture. And distinguishing these words can be quite useful in helping an organization grow.
Commercial organizations (including non-profits) really want innovation. Putting people through creativity training is interesting, but if the resulting solutions are not relevant to needs or are not ultimately implemented, there is no point. In fact, it can create extra work that detracts from the real opportunities.
Invention can be great. But I know a lot of broke inventors. Developing something new does not mean there is a market need.
Equally, I know a lot of great artists who never want to “sell out” and as a result are struggling to get by.
Innovation is the key. The resulting change does not need to be radical, it only needs to be relevant to the needs of the market. It does not need to be fancy, as long as the solution is commercially viable an implementable.
Getting clear on these distinctions can help you focus your energies on what matters most.
Stephen Shapiro is the author of five books including “Best Practices Are Stupid” and “Personality Poker” (both published by Penguin). He is also a popular innovation speaker and business advisor.