Innovate v. Create

Is there a difference between creativity and innovation?

When we say someone is creative, are they more (or less) than an innovator? Or just different?

If you start with the definitions (admittedly not a particularly creative way to start) , there really isn't that much difference:


    To begin or introduce for (or as if for) the first time

    Introduce something new, especially a product

    To make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products

    Develop existing products, services or systems, often in an incremental fashion.


    To give rise to; produce

    To produce through artistic or imaginative effort.

    To bring into being or existence

They look similar. Both involve making something new, but there are some ways to distinguishing between them.

Is there a problem here? Problem solving is often best served by innovation. Something is wrong, and needs to be fixed, or needs to be made better. Creativity can (and does) exist in its own world, without any relation to what's going on in our world.

There are no shoulders for creatives to stand on. If you look at the definitions, innovation includes change and development–creation does not–as much. Innovators work within the context of existing frames of reference with a goal of modifying or building upon something that's already there. Creative has the implication of bringing into existence something for which we may have a frame of reference or a context, but we do not have this specific incarnation. There were stories of wizards before Harry Potter, but there was no Hogwarts, no Dumbledore, no King's Cross Platform 9¾.

If there is nothing tangible, it's probably creative. Artistic endeavor is almost always creative. So this essay is regarded as creative, even though there's been a lot of modification of existing text. Innovation makes changes to a known (physical) quantity.

Creative people can be innovative, and vice-versa. It's not the activity, it's the application or results.

There are lots of ways to be creative/innovative. Sometimes there's one person, sometimes a team. Sometimes things happen quickly, but long-term development and changes/revisions are more the norm. Rarely do creatives/innovators get it right the first time. Thomas Edison tested over 1,000 different materials for the light bulb filament. Does this mean he wasn't creative?

Bottom line, creativity and innovation can be what you want them to be. But if you want to be creative or innovative, it always helps to hang around other creative/innovative people.

Random Aphorisms – The Contrarian


So many sayings and observations are repeated so often, they become accepted as fact (and are often presented that way). But should they be accepted at face value?

All of us is smarter than (some/one) of us. Sometimes adding people to a group (or having people push their way into a group) can have a subtractive effect on its capabilities, either because the group becomes too large, the goal becomes diffused, the group distracted, or a member adds a dysfunctional element.

Think outside the box. The box is one of your most valuable resources. That’s your knowledge base, your expertise, your source of strength. While there might be advantages to occasionally stepping outside the box, you could make a case that you really can’t.

There are no stupid questions (except the unasked question). Actually, there are a number of stupid questions. Questions that derail a useful discussion. Questions that the person asking already has an answer to, and is either showing off or trying to embarrass someone else. Questions where the questioner could reasonably be expected to find the answer on their own.

Create webs and connections. Webs and connections are a wonderful thing, but the connections have to have meaning. 500+ LinkedIn connections are not useful if they're trophies and not resources. Volume does not equal quality or benefits.

Prioritize. Prioritizing is definitely a good thing. Just make sure you're putting the right things first. Stephen Covey, in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, has a simple matrix to help prioritize. Items are important or not important. They are urgent or not urgent. Deal with important first, and if at all possible keep items from becoming important and urgent. Do not let others override your priorities with theirs. As Peter Buccellato used to say, "Just because it's your top priority does not make it my top priority."

Transparency/Openness is the way to go. As long as you can stay ahead, that's the way to go. Sometimes, however, it's beneficial to keep some things hidden, until they're ready for prime time. Or until they're properly protected.

Collect the low-hanging fruit. Low-hanging fruit has value. It can provide nourishment in the early stages of a project, and also serve as a reward and motivation. However, if you rely solely on low hanging fruit without developing a plan to harvest fruit on the higher branches, you’ll be standing in the middle of an orchard with nothing to eat.

Take on new roles. It's can be a value add, but if the new role starts having adverse effects on your core capability or cuts into the time that you need to do your "real" job, then it's time to at least reassess if not back away. If it's no place you want to go, no should be the first response.

Ignore advice and speculation. With free advice, you get what you pay for.

Let things die. Back when I was in college, we wrote papers on typewriters. At a certain point, I'd make enough mistakes so I had to retype the page. Although painful, this also gave me the chance to re-think what I was trying to say, which resulted in a better product. The problem with computers is they because we can tweak text and documents, we fiddle with things way longer than we should. The same is true sometimes for jobs, grudges, and relationships. Sometimes you have to let things go and start again.

Assess from the bottom, not from the top. the view up there may not always be the most accurate. In the best of all worlds, try to get a 360° view.

If you steal, steal from the best. Like low-hanging fruit, stealing will only take you so far. You need to take charge of your own activity, be it a product or approach, at some point. Ownership, I think they call it. It's a good thing, too..

Mine multiple sources for ideas. As W.C. Fields once noted, "If at first you don' t succeed, try, tty again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it." The same applies to research. At a certain point, continued mining has diminishing returns–you spend more time finding less. Better to recognize "enough, and proceed toward the goal.

Value the court jester. The hardest thing for a humorist to do is be taken seriously. See Garrison Keillor and Chris Rock. A true court jester can be invaluable. But they can also be a clown. The wisdom comes in knowing which is which.

Buy American. Define "American." Every now and again there's a wave of "Buy American" sentiment. In an age of multi-national behemoths, it's hard to say what's American. Hondas are made in Ohio, Fords in Europe. Which do you choose to get the most American vehicle?

Choose for skills, not experience. Some professional sports teams daft the best available player no matter the position. Experience helps, but with the way the world of work is changing, it might be a good idea to go for someone with flexibility. In the same way you're supposed to dress for your next job, hire for the next job. Related: lots of people can do the job. Hire people (with skills, of course) who will be a good cultural fit, and who bring something different to the organization.

Think global, act local. Even better, think local, too. Deal with and respond to the people you know who share the same problems and, to a certain degree, world view. Acting local is so much better when you know the lay of the local land. An imported solution runs the risk of turning into "one size fits all," that is, fits nobody well.

Don’t be afraid to put things back the way they were. We believe that progress always marches upward, that what we have or do now is better than yesterday. At least we act that way. Two words: "New Coke."

More is better. Maybe not. It's a silly example, but consider what happens when you add a "c" to the front of "hunky." Not quite the same.

Phrase it as a positive. Sometimes "no" is the way to go. It's clear and unambiguous. But make it clear that "no" is related to a poor idea or decision, not the person making the request or suggestion.

No pain, no gain. Pain is the way our body tells us we're at risk of damaging ourselves. Strive, yes, extend and expand, and as Browning said, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" but heed the warning that true pain provides. You can't reach heaven if you just tore a quadriceps.

Stop and smell the roses.Roses smell lovely. if your goal is to achieve olfactory delight, then sniff away. But if you are prone to distraction, keep your eye on the prize and build some rose time into your schedule and life.

Be a team player (There is no "I" in team). There’s nothing wrong with being a team player, but make sure you know the game you’re playing. There are times when the best teams have members work apart–recognize when you need to work solo.

Let's brainstorm that! There are other, more effective ways of generating ideas, and there is some credible proof that starting with group brainstorming can lead to fewer ideas, not more. And as with "all of is is smarter," one person can dominate a group, resulting in good ideas being left on the table.