Innovation has a branding problem. It’s a common buzzword in business, yet many of us think we are not particularly creative or innovative. That’s the story we have been telling ourselves for years – but it’s probably not true.
Many of us see a creative person as a special breed. That isn’t just misleading. It’s simply wrong. It’s a myth. Ask your parents what you were like when you were a little kid.
Did you ever find a different use for your bowl of cereal? A hat, perhaps?
Or did you build something out of Lego without following directions?
The conclusion is that we are all creative and our creativity flows through adulthood. Have you told your children a story about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or the spaceship you flew as a kid? If you have, you are still creative.
Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not lost in adulthood and it’s not just for a few of us. It is intrinsic to every human being and is manifested in everyday adaptations and problem solving. No super talent is required.
But what’s the crucial difference between creativity and innovation? And what exactly do we mean by innovation?
Innovation is simply doing things differently in a way that adds value. The crucial distinction is that creativity is thinking up new things, while innovation is doing new things, according to author Theodore Levitt in "Creativity is Not Enough," 1963:
Creativity = Ideas
Innovation = Ideas + Action
So how can organizations think creatively to nurture innovation as a key driver of business growth? We’ve all heard the phrase adapt or die, and for businesses to achieve success in today’s complex world, this is a universal truth. Here are a several tips to consider:
Let me say this again for the nonbelievers in the back: We are all creative and we can all innovate.
Radical innovation refers to the far-out, groundbreaking inventions that have become the popular face of innovation. We immediately think of people like Steve Jobs or Walt Disney, but they can be pretty tough role models to live up to.
Businesses should try to create a culture where every employee has an opportunity to innovate, not just the super-visionary. To do so, more emphasis should be placed on incremental innovation, which is often overlooked and is far more accessible. It’s about building on existing concepts, refining, expanding and improving them. Both types of innovation are needed in business to address today’s and tomorrow’s customers, and both require dedicated conditions, capabilities and mindsets in order to thrive.
At Willis Towers Watson, all colleagues have an opportunity to propose new ideas that will add value to our clients through our annual innovation challenge, Horizons. Selected ideas are granted funding and colleagues are coached in the development of their projects, from concept development and testing to launch and scale. Innovation is a key driver of our growth strategy, and our goal is to create an inclusive innovation culture where everyone is encouraged to think differently and has an opportunity to contribute to a brighter future.
What we call innovation at work is similar to what a child would call playtime: being curious, imagining a new possibility, trying a new approach to something. Not everyone has it in them to be a revolutionary – but an evolutionary? Absolutely.