Creativity and Innovation

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How are creativity and innovation intertwined?  For many people creativity feeds innovation for without creativity can you have innovative ideas?  For others, creativity is not necessary for innovation but it does makes innovation happen faster.  Innovation can be the result of laborious work; boring, repetitive and definitely not creative work,  Creativity, on the other hand, is different:

Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation.

Innovation is about something “new”.  Merriam-Webster defines innovation as:

  1. the introduction of something new
  2. a new idea, method, or device : novelty

The other day I was harping about how something “new” isn’t necessarily innovative.  I guess it really comes down to what we mean when we use the word “new”.  New for me and you or new for the world?  The world has changed a lot in the past twenty years and we are no longer the separate and distinct societies we once were.  We are spilling over the banks and influencing other people and cultures.  When we think “new”, we need to think bigger than just ourselves, we need to think, at the very least, nationally, if not globally, as our reach has extended that far.  “New” needs to refer to something that “has recently come into existence” on a global basis.  If it’s not “new”, it’s merely continuous improvement.

And that is where creativity comes in. Where the guy you thought was crazy when you were in grade six makes a stunning breakthrough in speech recognition.  Where the integration of different pieces of information makes something so unique, so exciting, that everyone starts to copy you.  Creating something new, giving birth to something that didn’t exist one day, but is fundamental to something else the next, that is what creative people strive for.  That is the harsh taskmaster that whips at our backs in an effort to be creative.  The idea that something we build with our hands, with our minds, can be fundamental to how someone views or interacts with the world is both stunning and daunting.

How will we know when we get there?  How do we come to grips with the fact that should we be successful, all of those hours/days/weeks will have been worth it, but what next?  How do we continue to be creative?  Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960 and never published another novel.  The “sequel” Go Set a Watchman, was really confirmed to be the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.  So that was it.  A single novel.  She tried several times to write other books but was never satisfied.

Creativity needs to be fostered.  It needs to be given time to breath and grow.  It needs time to be nurtured.  Creativity breeds innovation but is not the sole driver of innovation.  Hard work can also drive innovation, but it is never as effective as innovation through the creative efforts of someone driven to deliver change.

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