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Can you be innovative without being creative?

The term “Innovation” no doubt competes for the prize as “most frequently used buzzword of the 21st Century”. Whether it’s radical, frugal, social, public, disruptive or open - it has become one of the most important concepts of our rapidly changing society and not without reason. The cost of doing nothing was large a 100 years ago. Very large 10 years ago. And even larger today.

Today, just doing more of the same is simply not enough - “business as usual” will not cut it.

Paradoxically, instead of having the courage to think in new directions, when budgets are tight many businesses seem to focus on what they consider to be their “core” business - which is often the exact move that nails the coffin. No matter how good and cheap horses were, they could not compete with the introduction of the car. And no matter how stellar Kodak’s marketing campaigns were, they could not have been successful in convincing consumers that “digital photography” was just a fad.

And we all know how that story ended….

Thus, whether we think the term is oversold or not, innovation is paramount to long-term business success. Yet, few people or firms realize the immense importance creativity has on the innovation process. Obviously, it's possible to be creative without necessarily being innovative. But is it possible to be innovative without being creative?

We think not.

Innovation is often referred to as the commercialisation or monetization of creative ideas. Thus, creativity lies at the heart of innovation. Given this relationship, is it fair to assume that for a company to succeed in times of constant disruption it must simply hire the most creative people available?

Maybe yes.

But über creative people are sometimes not the most productive or collaborative types. They might have the right ideas and insights, but as many budding entrepreneurs can testify to: having the right idea is not a guarantee for successful execution - an ultimate requirement for a business model or product innovation to take hold. Great leaders know how to foster a culture that enables creative geniuses to work effectively in a team. But, what if you could also take the super diligent, productive, well-communicating super engineer or middle manager and make her (or him) more creative?

Well, you can.

And that’s the underlying premise of creativity. It can be taught, and hence: learned. Unlike the misconstrued public perception that creativity is some magical skill that a few people possess and others don’t, creativity is in fact an ability that can be taught, practiced and honed. Yes, some people are, for neurological reasons, naturally more creative than others. However, studies show that normal people who consider themselves “not” creative, or “not very” creative can score up to 68% higher on recognised creative-potential tests after only a few days of neuro creative training.

But what does this mean?

This means that companies can equip and empower their existing workforce with the skills they need to instigate the transformative change necessary to come up with the next million dollar product or business model that could ensure the firm's survival in the 21st Century. And unlike highly paid external innovation consultants who come in for defined projects, these skills will remain in the organisation even after the initial transformation has taken place.

So, where to start?

Well, check out this short TEDx Talk by Balder Onarheim for some easy tools you can use right away. My favourite clearly is “click the random” button:-)

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