Would You Rather Be Creative or Innovative?

March 10, 2010

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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