What’s the difference between creativity and innovation?
Creativity deals with original thought, asking “what comes next?” Innovation is about building on what already exists, focusing on ways to improve something already established.
Creatives are dreamers, innovators are builders.
If you think of ideas as nails, creatives are those who gather up the nails and collect them in mental boxes or notebooks. They look at the nails and ask “what could this be used for?”
Innovators are those who see the nails and think “how could this be made better?” They put in the work to hammer the nails into something better.
Creativity is about thinking of new types of nails, dreaming up never before thought-of alternatives to nails. Innovation is about how to improve upon the nail in order to build a better product. One is creating the new, one is improving on the old.
To be an innovator you have to have some level of creative ability, of course. Innovation requires the ability to think creatively and see what new ways something old can be improved..
Creatives, on the other hand, don’t have to be innovators, they don’t have to work in the realm of what already exists or what action needs to be taken. This one difference helps explains why so many creatives turn to forms of creative expression, like painting or poetry or interpretive dance. They’re often not building on something already established, but instead are often creating something from nothing.
Depending on your purpose in life, being a creative may be better than being an innovator, or vice versa. Are you the type who enjoys gathering original ideas (writing sci-fi novels or creating new technology from nothing), or are you the type who wants to see improvement to what already exists (by creating a new type of phone or tweaking a process at work or school)?
Odds are that you’re both, but to what extent are you innovating vs dreaming up new ideas?
Photo by Russell Darnell.