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Creativity Is Not Innovation (But You Need Both)

In today’s world, both creativity and innovation are constantly growing in significance. Both two characteristics are of importance but may be confused by some people. This article points out some of the differences between them.

Based on Shawn Hunter, the author of “Out Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes,” (Wiley, 2013), creativity could be defined as the capability or act of conceiving something original or unusual, while innovation is the implementation or creation of something new that has value to others.

Imgur To conclude, creativity is about showing a capability and innovation is about putting creativity to practical use.

Theoretically, creativity and innovation should both be used in practical problem-solving. However, it is a fact that some people may use only one of them in practice. For example, in a brainstorming meeting people might come up with creative ideas, but without innovation, ideas cannot be implemented.
Another fact is that some people focus more on generating creativity than on building innovative solutions. They treat innovation as a black box full of mysteries. Yet, it is innovation that is scalable and replicable, not creativity. Innovation can be regarded in terms of existing processes, products or interactions.

Innovation is the product of creativity. In order to give birth to innovation out of creativity, creative people should be warmly encouraged, the culture should be built to support their values, and a system should be established to foster and maintain the creative atmosphere.

Take the invention of Starbucks’ Frappuccino drink for example. The story started in Santa Monica, California in the early 1990s. When a staff member invented a new drink which was proposed to the top managers, and it was eventually rejected. Due to the rejection, the Frappuccino was sold to the local customers quietly without permission from headquarters. And then, Frappuccino quickly became popular, so the management group implemented this idea to the whole company. According to Howard Behar, Starbucks’ vice president of sales and operations at the time, the success should be credited to someone who was allowed and even encouraged to experiment with a new product that deviated from the company’s core product line.

After reading this article, we want to know your opinion. Please share your responses with your fellow students in the comments!


Kathan, W., Hutter, K., Füller, J., & Hautz, J. (2015). Reciprocity vs. Free-Riding in Innovation Contest Communities. Creativity and Innovation Management, 24(3), 537-549. doi:10.1111/caim.12107

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This article is from the free online course:

Using Creative Problem Solving

National Chiao Tung University