Creativity vs Innovation… What’s the Difference?

Often creativity and innovation are used interchangeably. However, they have two subtle yet important distinctions. Do you know what they are?

Creativity is the method of unleashing the mind to think in different ways and come up with new ideas. It is fostered through your senses, experiences, imagination, and passion. Creativity is not measurable.

Innovation is the application of creativity. It introduces change to a system or product, and it is the process required to make that change. Innovation is measurable. Often a creative idea results in an innovative product or process, which provides a company with a measurable return on investment.

It is worth keeping in mind that not all creativity leads to innovation and not all innovation is profitable.

Let me illustrate the difference between creativity and innovation with a story. The animation powerhouse, Pixar was once a little company struggling to remain alive. It had an innovative imaging marvel called the Pixar Image Computer. This machine rendered 2D images into 3D images, which at the time was amazing. The little company had a dream to create a feature-length animated film, but did not have the revenue to fund the dream.

The leaders of this Oliver Twist of companies came up with the creative idea to market the Pixar Image Computer to other industries besides animation. They found buyers from government and medical agencies who could use the machine to turn CT images into 3D images making them easier to read. Eventually, the company caught the eye of Steve Jobs who saw the potential and helped fund the company while they realized their animation dreams. Everyone knows that this story ends with Pixar animating many award-winning films and being a top creative and innovative company, but it was the initial innovative product and the creative methods for funding early on that put the company on its path to where it is today.

Simply put:

Creative Ideas → Innovative Products or Processes → ROI

Another story that illustrates this is about a dill pickle company that suddenly found its popularity explode, but the result was mounds of byproduct waste. The Real Dill founders hated throwing away the food waste so they creatively set about to find a solution. One solution was the creation of the company’s now best-selling product, a Bloody Mary mix made with the cucumber infused water that normally ended up down the drain as waste. The other creative solution was to donate other food waste to a local, non-profit organization that would use it as compost to help increase the yield in community gardens. Both creative ideas were put into practice and have become innovative processes to reach a zero-food-waste goal that most companies find unattainable.

Read more about The Real Dill’s efforts here.