If you ask a group of people what one of the biggest hurdles is in bringing creativity and ideas to life, there’s a very good chance that most of them will say ‘implementing ideas’. Or more to the point ‘implementing the right ideas’. And the reason for that is that we all fall into one of four different types of creative behavior. And three of those aren’t quite as potent as the fourth. So bear with me a moment while I set the scene. It works like this.There are four different behaviors (let’s call them quadrants) and these quadrants are outlined by a horizontal and vertical axis. The vertical axis represents activity – low on one end and high on the other. The horizontal axis represents ideas – again low on one end and high on the other. Our creative behavior fits within one of those quadrants.ThinkersIn the top left quadrant are people who are fantastic at coming up with ideas and concepts. They are great at seeing possibilities. However they are not very good at acting on those ideas. These are the ideas people but their challenge is in finding a place in the world for their ideas. We still need these people because we need great ideas and we need people who can see unique and fresh possibilities.We call these people – the ‘Thinkers’.ActivatorsOpposite these people in the bottom right-hand quadrant are the people who are really good at taking action. These people may not be great at coming up with the ideas but they are really good at getting active and making them happen. In fact quite often ideas are passed to them, usually by the thinkers. We need these people because they’re the ones who get ideas up and running.We call these people – the ‘Activators’StudentsThen in the bottom left-hand quadrant, are people who are not really good at coming up with ideas or at acting on ideas. That doesn’t mean they are less creative than everyone else, it simply means they may not have been given the right opportunities or haven’t been taught how to utilize their creative talents. We need these people too, because they are the future if we nurture them well.We call these people – the ‘Students’.Think-a-vatorsThen in the top right quadrant we have those who are both really creative and good at coming up with ideas BUT are also really good at taking action on their ideas as well. This is gold.It’s a good thing to have great ideas but unless you act on those ideas, it’s a complete waste of time. It’s also a good thing to be proactive but if you act on the wrong ideas, then it’s a waste of effort. Think-a-vators are good at doing both in a complementary manner. We need these people because they have a knack of finding the right ideas and making them work.We call these people – the ‘Think-a-vators’All for oneHere’s the good news, rarely do we sit completely and totally in one quadrant, we tend to flip around. The goal of course is to be think-a-vators, but that won’t always be the case. At times, depending on the project, the environment and the problem, we may find ourselves predominantly in one quadrant. And that’s okay.CastingWithin any organization, within any team, there is a blend of creative people who sit across all quadrants, and we need them all. We need the ‘thinkers’ to provoke ideas, we need the activators to get things done, and we need the students for their fresh perspectives. In that sense, if we get the blend of creative talent right – if we get the casting right – the team itself becomes a ‘think-a-vator’So the issue of implementation is not one of coming up with ideas it’s not one of taking action. The real issue with implementation is in getting the mix right between finding the right ideas and then acting on those ideas. It is being a thinker and an activator. It’s being a ‘Think-a-vator’.
Innovation is the lifeblood of every business today. In fact, Peter Drucker claimed that “business has only two functions — marketing and innovation.” It doesn’t matter what type of business you are in you need to live, breathe and think innovation. In a world of change, innovation is the only way to survive.Innovation has become a big business of its own. Organizations are springing up that claim to offer some new slant on enhancing creativity. Some new technique or technology that will help you be that little bit more creative. But with all this creativity being sold and innovation being bought, there is one big question that begs to be answered.What’s the distinction between creativity and innovation?What makes creativity, creativity and innovation, innovation? In this article, I’m going to try to explain how creativity and innovation differ. And they are different.Both creativity and innovation are predicated on new. New ideas, new thoughts, new value, new technology. But if both of them rely on new then that’s not going to be the main differentiator between them.Both creativity and innovation usually rely on outside influence to create the new. It takes a little spark of an idea in order to get creativity to start on any large scale. And innovation requires outside influence otherwise it becomes simply improvement. So while there is some difference there, it’s only a matter of intensity rather than something substantive.Both creativity and innovation involve action although of different types. Creativity often involves meetings, debate and other actions which fuel and direct the creativity. Innovation also requires action as the ideas are brought to focus and turned into new products with new value formulas.And both versions involve change. But there’s a difference that may be worth considering. Creativity involves undirected change. You never know what you are going to get and where it’s going. Innovation on the other hand, involves vectored change. It involves change with direction and purpose.We’re getting closer, but I still think we’ve got to go a little further.Let’s look at the relationship between the two of them. If we do so then we find that innovation requires a healthy dose of creativity. In fact, my organization defines innovation as the product of creativity and execution.In that definition, we find the true difference between creativity and innovation. Creativity is the effort and conditions involved in creating a new idea. But innovation involves taking that idea and executing it. It involves taking the idea and turning it into reality. Innovation is executed creativity. But more than that, it’s vectored creativity executed and turned into reality.
There is a great debate going on! Let me introduce you to the debaters. There’s Academic Alfred on the one hand, a struggling business man with a college degree, the basis on which he established his small business. He’s adamant that creativity is “too out there” and any major focus on it will derail his business.Vigorously opposing him is Creative Cindy. Not only is she in what may be described as a creative industry, she’s built her business creatively. She holds fast to her position that “all of those by-the-book rules” will kill her business if she begins applying them in any major way.What is academic? What is creative? Is there a relationship between the two in business?There seems to be a concept that creativity means non-academic, non-structured, non-systematic, in other words “free form” as was the term used when I asked my trusted fan base. In other words, footloose and fancy free. Academic connotes too structured, too “text bookie” too well, academic.I don’t question these positions and I offer no competing definitions. I will just share what they mean to me and hope that my perspective helps you to create the lifestyle that you want along with whatever else you create.I am creativeI can take three metres of fabric and create an original outfit and sew it all by my little self. The idea for the outfit may have been driven by the fabric itself, a notion I got while waiting for the traffic lights to change or I could have deliberately decided that I want an outfit in this colour, from this texture of fabric to wear on no particular occasion.If you read anything I write you will realize that I can take any of the complex academic subjects which I have studied and write about them in the most amazing ways that combine your need for information and entertainment with my creative ways of structuring, packaging and presenting it to you.Those are just two of the areas in which my creativity cannot be contained. Sometimes my creativity is used for the pure pleasure of the output or to challenge me to grow and to expand and remain relevant in the areas I use creativity to make money.To me creative means being original in thought, outlook, perspective, etc and willing to use your imagination and intuition instead of being led primarily by the external influences which you face on a daily basis. It requires you to have a strong sense of who you are and the intestinal fortitude to dance to the beat of your own drums, however out of step you may appear to the rest of the world.I am academicIf we understand academic in its strictest and original sense in which it relates to the expansion of the mind, I have a voracious appetite for knowledge and I am on a never-ending quest to expand my mind.You see, knowledge feeds my creativity and not just academic knowledge (this time in the sense of what is learnt in schools and education institution) but also knowledge of the world around me. In this way my creative right brain has the tools it needs to produce numerous ideas and at a phenomenal rate. Moreover, it’s this same knowledge in my left brain that acts as a gatekeeper to some of my right brain ideas and calls upon it to “wheel and come again” on the usefulness of some of these ideas.Creativity also comes from action. It’s very difficult to take action when you’re paralysed by fear or overwhelmed by uncertainty and self-doubt. It’s my vast reservoir of both academic and non-academic knowledge that mostly informs me of which actions to take that propels the flow of my creative juices which in turn allows me to see new ideas, new possibilities and exciting solutions to existing problems.I am all businessYes, like most entrepreneurs, I want to make money from my passion and this brings out yet another side of me. Now I’m structured, systematic, focused, creative and yes academic! How many times have I seen entrepreneurs create products and services with no idea if there is a market for them and then complain that people don’t know what’s good for them? Too many.Whatever is your creative output, if you want to make money from it, there is the business of being in business. This is where you decide on and implement a structure for your business. This is where you implement the systems that take your products and services to the client in the most efficient and cost-effective way. This is where you collect and manage the money which you make, remembering that wealth is not about how much you make but how much you keep of what you make.You don’t have to know how to do any of this yourself, you just need to know that if you’re serious about monetizing your passion, there is the business aspect that you cannot ignore. If your mind is expanded, you will see several ways to do this and you will be creative in your implementation.So as an entrepreneur who create to make a living, being exclusively creative will not cut it. There must be a balance between what you create how much you know and the systems and structures which allow you to make money from your creations, so that you can create even more.Do not hide behind being creative or insist on being mono-talented as a means of not implementing those systems or acquiring the knowledge that will manage and grow your business. Find creative ways to learn what you need to know, always understanding that having a small business is not an excuse for you to be small-minded.I’m also innovativeThat’s why my business is built on distinction, excellence and service! Of course, driven by the academic and creativity.