Moving from creativity to innovation

Creativity to InnovationI’ve never really pictured myself as a “creative” person. Every once in a while, while in the shower, mowing the  lawn, or walking the dog, a connection happens between disparate ideas and I have a new and seemingly inspired insight. This is how I create; how I am creative. I can’t force it. I struggle with issues.  I’m alone with not much occupying my mental energy, and pop, I’m creative.

I view creativity as an individual activity – something someone does within their own head. An artist paints. A poet writes. A composer crafts beautiful music. All are done as a solo endeavors. Creativity can happen when inspired by others. It can happen in the company of others. However, it ultimately happens alone.

Innovation, in contrast, is a group effort. It’s moving an individual’s creative idea out of one person’s head and into the world – It’s a change to a product, process, or service. The reality is, innovation requires others to grasp an individual’s creative idea and determine its value. Therefore, the more efficiently groups can understand and learn from the creative ideas of others, the more innovative organizations can be.

Organizations usually require more justification to allow an innovation to proceed. The expected value of a proposed innovation needs to be quantified and approved by various layers of leadership. Changes need to be scheduled on roadmaps. However, the better groups are at collaborating, learning, and finding value in new ideas, the faster it’s possible to innovate and grow.

Organizations need to build cultures of collaboration and capacity for listening and learning. Building efficient structures that provide space for creativity and support for group collaboration and learning can make a huge difference. Taking general steps to effect the culture like institutionalizing Seven Norms of Collaboration or specific ones like using Structured Democratic Dialogue (when significant complexity is present, diverse perspectives are needed,  and cross-team collaboration is required) become high leverage first steps. This foundation can then be leveraged to become more efficient garnering approvals and making innovations come to life.

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