Innovation is often conflated with creativity. While successful product innovation requires application of a new technology or developing new markets, creativity lends the new with the known. Both innovation and creativity hinge on passion and persistence.
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What is Innovation?
Innovation is the introduction of something new. Sometimes we find a new technology that makes a task simpler or cheaper. There are product innovations that make the lives of consumers better and there are process innovations that make factories run more smoothly. Product and process innovations deliver value to the customer and value to the company (profit).
We also observe innovation in marketing when an existing product or technology is introduced to a new market. For example, using your smartphone to take a photograph is known technology. Using your phone to take a photo of a check and deposit it to your bank account is a new market application.
A third category of innovation is a new business model. Business models (read more here) are the narratives of how companies serve customers and create value for both he customer and themselves. Sometimes a business model innovation is simple, such as changing fast food pick-up from a drive-through window to curbside. Other times the business model transformation is huge – do banks need tellers anymore if we take photos for depositing checks and get cash from an ATM?
Thus, innovation can be small or large. Innovation can involve technology, markets, and products. And, innovation can encompass sales and delivery channels.
What is Creativity?
Dicationary.com defines creativity as “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns…” I often think of artists as creative people. I envy their talent in oil painting, woodworking, and jewelry-making. Interestingly, my friends and family have told me that I’m creative with my handmade greeting cards. As a chemical engineer by training, I’m pretty sure I’m not an artist – I think of myself as a nerd!
Yet, artists are just as dedicated to their craft as nerds are committed to engineering and coding. Artists study their subjects – people, landscapes, texture, and colors – just as engineers study math. And successful artists commit hours to perfecting their technique and media, just as engineers spend hours at university learning sophisticated calculus, statistics, and physical chemistry.
The Common Thread
So, innovation and creativity share the common idea of creating something new. To be successful at innovation, a company needs creative concepts, but creativity is not enough. Creative artists and innovation professionals share passion and persistence in their quest to create something new.
Passion is a desire for something that is so intense you cannot imagine not having it. Artists are passionate about their work. They talk about a necessity to paint so that a scene in their imagination can become real. Mystery writers have a passion to create a tension and they must write so they, too, can find out who-done-it.
Innovation professionals also have deep passions. We want to make a product work and to solve a customer’s problem. We must create a better way for our customers to access information or to perform daily tasks. Sometimes an innovator’s passion is the technology – knowing that if people can use a new device, it will make their lives better. Creating the new technology is work of love.
In Bridging Communication Gaps (Chapter 6 in PDMA Essentials Volume 3), I recommend hiring for passion over other qualifications. Team members with passion will support your mission and strive for excellence. Passion resulting in a work well done is a reward by itself.
I saw a quote the other day that success only comes before work in the dictionary. This is definitely what my parents taught me. I also observe artists and creative people working with persistence. Great writers and painters spend dedicated time every day working to master their technique. We don’t see their mistakes and errors from practice. What we are treated to is the result of creative persistence and hard work.
Successful innovation professionals are also persistent. We cannot design and develop a new product just because we have an idea. We must carefully (and ploddingly) analyze the data from potential customers and market segments. We must be persistent in the questions we ask and to whom we ask. Innovation doesn’t happen overnight, and we must be persistent in carrying a project through the long, boring times to achieve success. You’ve probably heard of the entrepreneur who became an overnight success – after 10 years of hard work and persistence!
Innovation and Creative Leadership
Passion and persistence. Goal-setting. Managing schedules and budgets. Creativity and innovation. Leaders need all these skills (and more). So, I’m really excited to offer you a chance to develop your passions for innovation through our new Leadership Master Class, starting 18 August (online). This course was created from years of experience in building innovation leaders and incorporates many of the tools from the popular Life Design Master Mind. Learn more and register here.
In the meantime, do what you love (passion) and do it well (persistence).
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