It’s time to look at the word ‘innovation’ in a new way. For the most part, its perceived as this grand undertaking – “Ok people, we’re going to radically change something we currently create. Now get going, and make it SEXY!” But at its core, innovation is simply a new way of doing something. The dictionary definition is cited as “1. Something new or different introduced 2. Introduction of new things or methods.”
The “something new” or “new method” is that ‘what’ – the output of innovation. But it’s not the ‘how’.
The ‘how’ is creativity.
Creativity is defined as “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.”
Now take any business scenario.
“We have to lay-off 10 people in Sales, but we need to up our numbers by 15%. Holy crap. How the hell are we going to do that?”
“Our competitor just launched their version of our product except it’s cheaper. How are we going to compete with that?”
“Our marketing approach is so old and tired. We’re doing the same things quarter after quarter because we’re too freaked out about the power of social media. Guys – how are we going to get into this new space and own it?”
The operative word in each is ‘how’. Without a new method of thinking, without the ability to transcend the usual or traditional way of doing things, you’re guaranteed one thing – stagnation and ultimately, failure. Guaranteed. It’s just a matter of time. The expression ‘innovate or die’ wasn’t referring to becoming an Apple or a Google, it was referring simply to the notion that if you’re not organizationally capable of shifting perception or perspective, you’re incapable of solving new problems and, as a consequence, incapable of evolving and adapting as the world around you does. .
But you don’t need creativity – right?
You don’t train for it, develop it or create a culture for it as a line item in your operating costs. And even if you do, it’s the first thing to go when times get tough (oh – the irony). Instead, you’re spending your money and their time on training how to use systems more efficiently, how to understand the digital landscape, how to communicate more effectively among teams, how to fill in time sheets. Right?
Ever consider that all you’re helping your people to do is paddle faster upstream towards the abyss? Perhaps the time has come to stop paddling and start asking the creative problem solving questions like “Where are we paddling to? Is a boat even the best way to get there? What if we swam instead? In what ways might we avoid the abyss altogether?”
But you don’t need creativity right? All you need is a bigger paddle.
One question. How are you going to make that paddle bigger?