Introduction 

The most creative organizations are also predictably the most competitive in their target market segments as they report consistent high growth, profitable products and services, and optimal employee productivity.

Creativity stimulates new ideas, challenges employees’ way of thinking, and identifies and exploits new opportunities. Success in a world of accelerating change, creativity is mandatory!

Encouraging the employee universe to think ‘outside of the box’ and providing the needed resources to explore new ideas is a mission-critical strategy for long-term market sustainability. The strategic outcome is the continuous availability of exciting, attractive, and revenue-producing new products and services and constant enhancement of the organizational infrastructures.

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.”
Albert Einstein

Creativity & Innovation: Differences

There’s much confusion on the meanings of creativity and innovation and a tendency to view them as interchangeable. Strictly speaking, they are very different in their application. In summary, creativity is the prerequisite to change, and both are critical activities of the same value chain. Success is the result of the effective progression of new ideas from creativity to innovation activities. While creativity supports the capability to crystalize new and unique concepts and hypotheses, innovation is the enactment of that creativity in the form of new solutions, processes, and products.

Creativity and innovation definitions follow below.

Creativity

Creativity is the ability to harness the power of the mind to act, conceive, and generate new ideas, concepts, imaginations, and possibilities, generally from a zero stage. Creativity occurs as a burst and spark and drives prompt articulation to substantiate viability and potential value.

Research reveals that creative thinking is inherently disruptive and entails breaking up traditional ideas and concepts and forming new connections between different regions of the brain. This condition is cultivating different thinking skills and deliberate exposure to new experiences, human collaborations, knowledge-building, and formal learning sessions.

Creativity types include original thought, divergent thinking, problem-solving, inspiration, and imagination.

“Some men look at things the way they are and ask why? I dream of things that are not and ask why not?”
Robert F. Kennedy

Innovation

Innovation is the capability to develop and implement newly created ideas/concepts, originating from the creative activity, into something useful, practical, and immense value to others. The amount of innovation is the capability to actualize a new idea into a successful solution for development and implementation.

The standard types of innovation cover:

Product / Service innovation: A product or service that is new or significantly improved; includes significant improvements in technical specifications, components and materials, user-friendliness, and other functional capabilities.

Process innovation: Is a new or significantly improved production or delivery method. Focus includes significant changes in approach, methods, techniques, equipment, and software.

Marketing innovation: Is a new marketing method involving significant changes in product design or packaging, product placement, channel management, and product promotion or pricing.

Organizational innovation: Are a new organizational method in business practices, workplace infrastructure, and processes and external partner and provider relations and supply chain.

“Success is on the far side of failure.”
Thomas Watson Sr.

The Creativity Process

Creativity is a process and consists of formal steps and activities that are interdependent and connected, with an end or goal, or an expected result. Graham Wallas, in his 1926 classic, The Art of Thought, presented the creative process in four stages are as follows:

1. Preparation:

The Preparation Stage is where the mind prepares for the first experience by defining the problem, opportunity, need, or desire. The activity involves collecting as much information as possible, immersion in thought, setting up an environment where ideas can germinate, and creating criteria for verifying solution acceptability.

2. Incubation:

The Incubation Stage involves a step back from the problem or opportunity and where our minds contemplate and work it through. The activity involves thoroughly reviewing the information collected, examining and viewing concepts them in different angles, and experimenting with how they align and fit into the idea of finding the right solution to the problem or opportunity.

3. Illumination:

The Illumination Stage ideas arise from the mind to provide the basis of a creative response or “eureka moment” when the incubation of the concept comes to fruition. These ideas can be parts of the whole or the whole. Unlike the other stages, illumination is typically brief, with an awe-inspiring rush of insights.

4. Verification:

The Verification Stage is the reasoning activity where the idea/concept is tested and quantified to determine its validity, and the composition scored, and the mathematical formula is proven.

The innovation discipline has seen any enrichments of the original Graham Wallas Model over the years. The most notable improvement was adding a fifth stage for Elaboration as described below.

5. Elaboration:

This Elaboration Stage represents a handover to the innovation activity, where the idea/concept for development and implementation. For an idea/concept to succeed, it must be released to targeted users, solicit and accept criticism and improvement suggestions, and adapt as needed for success. Ideas are worthless until they are commercialized!

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.”
Edward de Bono

Creative Thinking Approaches

The three most widely used creative thinking approaches include:

Thinking In-the-Box:

This approach is thinking traditionally, bound by old, nonfunctional, or limiting structures, rules, or practices. The ‘box,’ with its implication of rigidity and squareness, symbolizes constrained and unimaginative thinking within an organizational division, group, and team.

Thinking Out-of-the-Box:

This approach is more than just a cliché as it describes non-conformal, creative thinking, and is about not doing the same thing that everyone else does. It supports challenging problems and opportunities in atypical ways, thinking creatively and freely, and encouraging frequent encounters to the status quo. This activity deviates from generally accepted organizational policies, norms, and common expectations, to the benefit of solving the problem or exploiting the opportunity.

Edward De Bono, the psychologist, and inventor created the term Lateral Thinking in 1967, developed it as a structured creativity technique that encourages people to think outside their standard thinking patterns.

Thinking New-Box:

This approach applies to the identification and acceptance of new ideas as they need to be:

  • Synthesized by rearranging and reconstructing through dot-connecting then,
  • Refined and implemented within the new organizational context.

When people think in new boxes, they learn how to ask the right questions to open up the most promising doors to creativity.

A study by Adobe and Forrester Consulting found that 82 % of companies believe there is a strong connection between creativity and business results.
In fact, companies that actively foster creative thinking outperform their rivals in revenue growth, market share and competitive leadership, according to the report.

Creativity Myths & Misconceptions

Many creativity myths and misconceptions have been written about and discussed in the business community, including:

  • Creativity is inherent in one’s heritage or genes.
  • Creativity only comes from creative types of people.
  • Unlimited resources improve creativity.
  • The creativity trait does not support learning.
  • Time pressure fuels creativity.
  • Creativity is only about artistic expression.

None of these myths are true. Creativity draws from many human abilities that can be cultivated and refined.

Creativity and the Business Environment

Companies with formal strategy-based creativity and innovation programs can continually leverage and exploit their employee-focused abilities to identify solutions to meet the challenges of emerging technologies, proactive competition, changing government policies and regulations, and industry weaknesses and difficulties.

Companies embed a proactive creativity mindset throughout the organization with committed decisions, including:

  • Set-up an environment to encourage creativity.
  • Employ people with the ability to think ‘out of the box.’
  • Engage employees with different competencies, skills, and experiences.
  • Prioritize creativity efforts, values, and benefits.
  • Encourage employees with success-based incentives. (financial and non-financials)
  • Celebrate (and reward) employee and team creativity efforts and results.
  • Allow employees time to recharge.
  • Give employees space and freedom to fail and restart.
Sir Richard Branson uses a strategic technique as a creative underpinning of the Virgin companies.
The Technique is A-B-C-D
“Always Be Connecting the Dots”

Creative Thinking Techniques

Experience supports the most effective techniques employed in the creativity programs listed below.

The Way Forward 

Knowledge Compass consultants successfully help clients set-up and conduct Creativity and Innovation Programs and assimilate with corporate culture and strategy, thereby improving product and service differentiation and obtain, maintain or improve competitive market advantage.

Our approach is to tap into and exploit the pool of knowledge, insights, inspirations, and practical experiences populating our client employee minds and combine them in extraordinarily creative ways. 

A key outcome of our consulting engagements is to embed creativity and innovation principles and drivers into the fibers of our client’s infrastructure and culture, from the core to the periphery.

Knowledge Compass provides consulting services with the use of an array of Frameworks, Analyses Tools, and Interactions from their Best Practices Consultant Toolbox.