Would You Rather Be Creative or Innovative?

If you had to chose, would you rather be creative or innovative?

How does creativity differ from innovation? The best explanation I’ve seen comes from Theodore Levitt, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University. For years I have carried around the following quote from the professor:

Creativity thinks up new things.  Innovation does new things.

There is really no shortage of creativity or of creative people in American business.  The shortage is of innovators.  The major problem is that so called “creative” people often pass on to others the responsibility for getting down to brass tacks.  They have plenty of ideas but little business-like follow-through.  They themselves are the bottleneck.  They make none of the right kind of effort to help their ideas get a hearing and a try.

Does that help to clarify the choice between creativity and innovation?

We all have ideas about how to fix various problems. We often think of creative ways to meet new challenges. With little effort we can even come up with suggestions on how someone else can do his or her job better. We can easily create lengthy “to do” lists for those around us. The much harder assignment is to be innovative and to actually do what it takes to make a difference.

So, back to the question:  Which would you rather be—creative or innovative? (Hint:  it’s a trick question.)

I think the question itself is faulty. For me, this is never an either/or proposition.

The best choice is both. I want 1) to be creative and think up new things and also 2) to be innovative and do new things. How about you?

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2 Responses to Would You Rather Be Creative or Innovative?

  1. JoAnn Woody says:

    Great piece, as always, Duane! And I would have to agree with you…I’d much prefer to be both Creative AND Innovative.

    I also had another thought…in considering the definitions you provided – I’m wondering if one could argue that creativity would have to be present in order to be innovative. But one does not have to be innovative to be creative. Hmmm…thoughts?

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Interesting question, JoAnn. Hadn’t thought about it, but I’d guess that innovation not tied to creativity would be like tactics not tied to strategy. Thinking should precede acting, so it follows that creativity (thinking up new things) should go before innovation (doing new things). Thanks, JoAnn, for once again making me think about things in a new way.

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