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Krishnan on Innovation

Creativity IS NOT Innovation

Creativity IS NOT Innovation

Innovation is the buzzword today and everyone talks about it. One of the unfortunate consequences is that Creativity and Innovation are being used interchangeably by a large number of people.

While innovation sometimes requires creativity, creativity is not the same as innovation!

In fact, I would argue that innovation is a result of management system that doesn’t necessarily require creativity! The essential competencies required for innovation doesn’t include creativity! That’s a different topic for a different day.

What is the difference between creativity and innovation? I would like to explain this using an example.

Take the case of the foldable table chair that is shown in the video (this is a wonderful design shared on the YouTube channel of Start The House, where you can see many more such designs). That’s an example of creativity. It’s a creative furniture design that probably meets the requirement of the user and relates to others as well. It isn’t an innovation for a simple reason; it isn’t solving a big customer problem and is not a scalable business. Soon enough, many will copy it.

On the other hand IKEA is an innovative business. It doesn’t necessarily develop such creative pieces of furniture. However, it has developed a furniture system built on modularity, flat pack transport, DIY model and a business model that delivers high quality, yet low cost furniture solutions. No amount of creative designs can get a furniture maker anywhere close to IKEA.

The single biggest difference between creativity and innovation is this: Innovation is driven by a unsolved customer problem, something that they are willing to pay for.

Creativity on the other hand is a result of individual need for a product, efficiency or recognition. There may exists no market beyond the individual and can be replicated by others. Once in a while there would be examples of creative output becoming a large business, but they are few in number.

Another distinguishing character of creativity and innovation is that creativity addresses the question of HOW. How can I accomplish my requirement differently? It’s about finding solutions to complex work, process that requires effort, fit unique requirements etc. It could also be to showcase unique talent of the individual; wood working skills, painting skills, metal working skills, computer skills and so on.

Innovation is a WHAT led activity. What problem of customer requires a unique solution? This may involve product development, the process of delivering it, the way customer experience is managed, the branding, services and so on. When you identify the right problem to solve and solve it with multiple of these elements, you should be able to monetise the effort; generate growth and profits.

Creativity may or may not result in a growth opportunity. It could be a mere vanity effort, a one off effort that is not scalable or it may be relevant for only a small group.

Innovation on the other hand, directly addresses a customer problem and opens up a new growth opportunity. It may not need any creativity element; it could be a very scientific process of combining various existing things and putting together a new business model.

Organizations should seek innovation, not necessarily creativity to flourish.

Do reach out to me for building a sustainable innovative organization.

Krishnan Naganathan

Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 25 years of experience in the industry and consulting. You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or email:

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