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The Importance of Definition in the Language of Creativity and Innovation

One of the most difficult aspects around creativity and innovation is the language, definitions and usage of the terms in conversation. Creativity and innovation are often used synonymously creating confusion amongst all parties.

My main task initially when discussing creativity and innovation is to ask the participants in the conversation to define the difference. More often than not, there is disagreement and confusion around the differences and when, where and how these words are used to reflect the nuances that are associated with the differences. The conversation on the surface will appear coherent. However, when you start to delve deeper into the creativity and innovation processes at work within any given context, ambiguities occur which can make conversations around these concepts misunderstood.

If the participants find difficulty in reaching consensus around these terms, I will offer definitions and proceed to facilitate the conversation around these definitions.

Creativity is the birth of the new. It is about conceptualisation, invention, experimentation, rehearsal, prototyping, risk, failure and success. Creativity is intangible and subjective - constantly evolving until its birth occurs.

Innovation is the outcome of creativity. It is the birth of the conceptualisation - completed, applied and implemented, turning the intangible into the tangible. This tangibility in turn enables perception, judgement, reflection and action.

In that sense, creativity and innovation are constantly looping, requiring different thinking, skills and inputs at different times in their cycle of evolution.

Apple iPad case history is a good example of these two elements at play. The iPad started out as a concept around introducing mobility into computer functionality. Once the hardware was completed, inventors began to reflect creatively on the capabilities and capacities of the innovation and a new market for apps of all sorts was created and is still evolving.

Defining the difference between creativity and innovation in any context gives meaning, clarity and direction to the often wasted endeavours in these domains. If everyone is on the same page, the roles of creativity and innovation have clarity, structure and purpose and a better than average chance of having a life. Without that construct, there is a lot of hot air!


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