Creativity and Innovation require different support structures

Creativity and innovation need to be supported and nurtured

In a recent article, I explained that, though the terms are frequently used interchangeably, creativity and innovation are actually two different processes: Creativity is the birth of an idea, while innovation is actually doing something with that idea to create something of value. Each of these require separate supports for them to happen productively in organisations.

For creativity to happen, people working in an organisation must feel ‘safe’ to share or articulate their ideas. The bemoaners and the hecklers are the killers of creativity in organisations – if people are belittled, made fun of or humiliated in any way for sharing seemingly bizarre or wacky ideas, employees soon stop sharing them. Making fun of new ideas is the surest way to stop creativity in an organisation. And all great ideas start out sounding somewhat strange or unworkable, somewhat silly or impractical. What happens the moment an employee shares an idea determines whether an organisation will be creative.

If senior management want their organisation to be creative, they must introduce support processes that encourage and nurture ideas. Ideas should be encouraged and rewarded, and it must be made clear to everybody that ideas are not only welcomed but represent the very future of the organisation – organisations lacking creativity fall into decline and eventually disappear. So managers and team leaders need to be educated about creativity – they need to understand what it is and how to encourage and support it. As those in direct contact with staff, managers and team leaders are key in promoting creativity – if they are the ones who make fun of ideas by saying something like “don’t be ridiculous – that will never work” or “get real – be practical”, creativity will be stifled no matter what senior management say.

And when an organisation successfully creates an atmosphere conducive to creativity where employees share lots of ideas, all of these ideas must be treated delicately and nurtured. Some won’t develop into something of value now (but might in the future, so don’t disregard any!), but a few will if they are supported at birth. When an idea is turned into something useful – into something of value, this is innovation. For innovation to flourish in organisations, support processes are required. Again senior management must be seen to support the innovation process. This process will be somewhat different in each organisation, but essentially it must be one where failure is acceptable – most ideas don’t develop into something useful on the first attempt, so the organisation must treat failure as feedback and learn from it. Employees involved must feel safe to fail and when they do, they will repeatedly try until they succeed. It is the trying that makes an organisation innovative.

The difference between creativity and innovation

The terms ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ are frequently used interchangeably and many people perceive them to mean the same thing. Such usage of the terms confuses managers and others who need to lead change, creativity and innovation in organisations. The reality is that the terms have different meanings and refer to completely different functions within the creative and innovative process.

Creativity is the sparking of an idea – it is the birth of an idea. It is that “aha” moment when the solution to a problem suddenly comes to you – usually when you are not thinking directly of it as you are having a shower or taking a relaxing stroll! At other times, the creative idea comes from a long process of discovery such as through scientific investigation. Either way, it is still only an idea – a thought until something is done with it.

Innovation is taking that idea and doing something with it. Innovation brings the idea to life – it is when the idea is turned into something useful, something of value.

A good example that shows the separation and difference between idea generation (creativity) and doing something with the idea (innovation) is the invention of the Post-It pad. Post-it pads were created by accident at 3M. One of their scientists, Dr Spencer Silver, was working on developing a very strong adhesive when one of his attempts produced a weak adhesive instead. However, there is no such thing as failure in 3M, as they seek to learn from every experiment (that is why they are probably the most innovative company in the world). So Silver presented his results to others in the company. One of those present, Art Fry, remembered the idea five years later when he was contemplating how to keep bookmarks from falling out of his hymn book. He thought of the not-so-sticky adhesive and developed it into what we all now know as Post-it pads. Here there was a five year time gap between the idea and making something of value with it.

creativity innovation training
There is a difference between creativity and innovation

The difference between creativity and innovation has implications for how managers encourage and facilitate both in organisations. Fostering, encouraging and enabling creativity requires particular actions and measures. These are quite different to the processes and activities that are required to ensure that ideas are brought to fruition – that facilitate innovation.

An Easy Way To Improve Your Creative Problem Solving Skills

creative problem solving

Creative problem solving is an important skill to have.

And there are ways to improve your skills in this area.

Consider this hypothetical scenario. Your boss asks you to find a creative solution to two different problems. You have three ways to go about this:

  1. Switch between the two problems at specified time intervals.
  2. Use part of your time on one problem and then spend the rest of your time on the second problem.
  3. Randomly switch between the two problems whenever you want.

Most commonly, people would opt for the last option because it allows for maximum autonomy and flexibility.

However a study at Columbia Business School (by professors Jackson Lu, Modupe Akinola and Malia Mason) suggests using the first approach and setting specific time intervals when working on problems.

So, why does regularly working on and off a problem work?

That’s because when we do an activity that requires creativity, we often hit a block even if we don’t realize it. We often find ourselves coming up with the same ideas and can’t seem to move on. Switching between tasks can help reboot your thought process and enable going at the task in a new way.

To reach their conclusion the researchers conducted a few experiments

  1. First, while attempting to find the right solution to two problems, participants were assigned to one of the three approaches. Those switching between tasks at specified intervals were much more likely to find a solution to both problems compared to their counterparts who switched at their own discretion.
  2. Another study then measured the creativity of ideas when it comes to solving a problem. Problems that had no right answers were given to participants. Similar to the first experiment, participants who switched back and forth came up with more creative ideas.

Other research also defends that creativity is higher when people take scheduled breaks. Stepping away from your task helps you find a new perspective, instead of circling around the same ideas.

Things That Help People Become More Creative

how to be more creative

If you find yourself skimming through Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire’s book, “Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind,” you will notice a pattern that is pretty obvious. Though a lot of fundamentals of human creativity are clear, such as meditation, a lot of aspects of creative thought are not easily understood.

“Wired to Create” gives you an extensive and absorb-able account from the recent science behind creative thinking. The information gives us insights as to how and why the creative process works in humans. Here are some highlights:


Up to 72 percent of people have creative thoughts while showering. A study of people from around the world, done by Kaufman in 2014, showed that people receive new insights while taking a shower.

Letting your mind wander while you’re standing in the shower is actually good for your creativity. Our isolated morning shower is a great enclosed area for processing and coming up with ideas.

Other solitary actions, such as taking walks are also good for creativity.


Introverts know what’s up.

Though productivity is possible when working with a group, thinking and working alone is a one-of-a-kind experience. It appears that the creative and imaginative parts of the brain work better when we’re on our own.

Neuroscientists call this engagement “constructive internal reflection.” When we tune out everything, our brain is better at making distinct connections, clearing memories and processing data.


Putting yourself out there and trying new things also helps.

Exploring and trying new things has a correlation to creativity. Exploration is linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine, that also plays a part in inspiration and learning.

Dopamine “facilitates psychological plasticity, a tendency to explore and engage flexibly with new things,” the authors state.

The desire to explore just might be the most critical personal aspect when seeking creative performance.


Trauma belies hidden creativity.

John Lennon, Truman Capote and Robin Williams are just a few examples of those who have had a traumatic experience during their lives that impacted their artistic accomplishments.

“Post-traumatic growth” is the name psychologists give this experience.

During a major loss, a person’s brain attempts to find a creative outlet during the rebuilding stage.

Researchers delved into post-traumatic growth dozens of times in the past to make scientific observations. A 2004 study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, showed that 70% of survivors undertook some sort of positive psychological transformation after a traumatic event.


Daydreaming can, oddly enough, have positive advantages for your creativity. When you put your mind at rest and let it wander, there’s more going on than you think!

These occasions give a mental growth period that can enhance ingenious thinking, long-term organizing, and self reflection.

Psychologists have been researching the concept of “positive-constructive daydreaming” for dozens of years, and they continue to uncover the different ways in which the mind’s wandering is conducive for fantasy and creative notions.


Steve Jobs said that intuition is more powerful than your intelligence.

An unconscious mind is a powerful tool that we just haven’t caught on to enough yet.

Research that was done and published in American Psychology magazine in 1992 proposes that “nonconscious processes may indeed be faster and structurally more sophisticated than our conscious thinking systems.”

So the next time you have that hunch or feeling in your gut, don’t ignore it completely.

Use Ambient Music/Sounds To Create A Private Space For Productivity & Creativity

work better productive music ambient singapore malaysia, thailand indonesia

Open concept office spaces help to facilitate discussion and collaboration.

But the fact remains that independent work needs to be accomplished at the office as well and that open plan offices can be counterproductive.

Fortunately, technology provides some answers to the quandary of accomplishing focused work in a sea of chatter and movement.

One such solution plays through your headphones.

Ambient noise sites/apps whisper to your individuality and transform a public space into a private one. Ambient music/sounds can help you relax, focus and also be more creative. It can also increase your productivity.

Below are a few options to check out.


The soothing sound of rain washes away the chatter of the office.

As a widely popular ambient noise website, Rainymood sits you next to that open window or on the back porch, as rain rushes from the sky drowning out distraction.


White noise laid claim among buzzwords for years, as the sound to drown out all other sounds.

SimplyNoise takes this concept further by adding pink and brown noise.

And for those wanting a weather change, SimplyRain, a SimplyNoise website, grants your desire.


A clean, organized web experience, Soundrown offers rain and nine other sounds, including crickets, coffee shops, fountains and kids.

Mixing of the sounds creates a personalized atmosphere to meet your workplace needs.


Campfire and wave sounds play among the eight feature sounds of NatureSoundPlayer.

The simple interface allows for personal sound mixing to suit your style or mood of the day.

Slip to a quiet place that calms your rat race and focuses your mind.


With buttons for productivity, relax or random, or for the ambivalent, Noisil addresses your situation, whether the workload needs tackled or stress holds you captive.

The presets move you to your best place quickly by creating a perfect mix for you.

Or, personalized settings allow you to tailor the experience.


For those who work best amid the buzz of a public setting, Coffitivity offers coffee shop low sounds and chatter.

Choosing your coffee shop experience from morning to evening personalizes the atmosphere.

Claiming science backing, the sounds of this site boost creativity and productivity, caffeine-free.


The sound of others quietly working inspires you to work.

This motivation brings and its keyboard clicks and taps to your office.

Filter out all of the noise and hear only the work being done to increase your productivity.

Sarcasm can make you and your co-workers more creative

sarcasm creativity team work

Sarcasm often has a bad rap.

It is derived from the Greek verb, sarkazein, that means ‘to tear flesh like a dog’ and might be seen as hostility in the guise of humour.

However, it can offer some benefits as well.

As per a new study by Francesca Gino (Harvard Business School), Adam Galinsky (Columbia Business School) and Li Huang (INSEAD), sarcasm can boost creativity.

The researchers had volunteers engage in a variety of neutral, sarcastic, and sincere interactions. After the subjects participated, they were then asked to handle creative tasks.

The results: sarcasm provides an excellent mental workout for the brain (pre) creative activity.

Francesca Gino, had this to say in the Harvard Gazette afterward: “To create or decode sarcasm, both the expressers and recipients of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction (i.e. psychological distance) between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions. This is a process that activates and is facilitated by abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking.”

“Not only did we demonstrate the causal effect of expressing sarcasm on creativity and explore the relational cost sarcasm expressers and recipients have to endure, we also demonstrated, for the first time, the cognitive benefit sarcasm recipients could reap.”

Adam Galinsky, had this to add about the results of the study: “Those in the sarcasm conditions subsequently performed better on creativity tasks than those in the sincere condition or the neutral condition. This suggests that sarcasm has the potential to catalyze creativity in everyone.”

“While most previous research seems to suggest that sarcasm is detrimental to effective communication because it is perceived to be more contemptuous than sincerity, we found that, unlike sarcasm between parties who distrust each other, sarcasm between individuals who share a trusting relationship does not generate more contempt than sincerity.”

However, the researchers stressed in their findings that overdoing it on the sarcastic front is not a good idea.

Never throw out a sarcastic comment every time the mood strikes you, but keep your sarcastic charm reserved for only the most appropriate and ideal moments. After all, you don’t want to burn bridges by becoming known as the co-worker who can never be taken seriously.

To summarise the findings:

  • Sarcasm can promote creativity through abstract thinking in both the expresser and the receiver.
  • However, it is best used between people who have a good relationship. Otherwise it may give rise to conflict more than creativity.
  • Don’t overdo it.

Specific and scientific ways to be more creative

how to be more creaitve

Being creative can be difficult.

Finding new ways to approach ideas, projects and tasks can seem impossible at times.

However, there are specific ways you can approach this goal.

If you are ready to unlock your creative potential, check them out below.


According to Scott Kaufman at the University of Pennsylvania, to be a truly creative person, you need to fill yourself with a plethora of new and inspiring experiences.

After all, if you spend all day doing the same old things, where are you going to find that creative spark?

Personal growth is directly tied to experiencing new ideas, scenarios, and media, so get out there and start exposing yourself to whatever you can.

By trying new stuff, you will begin to find that “new stuff” starts finding its way into your thoughts, ideas and behaviour.


Many famous people have come up with culture changing ideas when on a stroll, so who knows, maybe you could be next.

Steve Jobs for example used to love going for walks. They helped him come up with new ideas and solutions.

Why does this work?

Scott Kaufman says it’s because the best ideas often don’t arise when we’re actively thinking about something. Movement, ideally surrounded by nature, facilitatea unconscious creative connections and insights.


The shower is a place where you can relax, and set yourself apart from many aspects of the normal everyday world.

As you stand there naked and exposed, completely relaxed while you enjoy the hot water, you begin thinking of ideas that escape you in a normal mental state.

In fact, a recent study showed that 72% of people reported finding new and exciting ideas while in the shower.


To be creative, you have to be willing to think ‘out of the box.’ I know, I know, it’s a cliché. But let’s get a bit more specific.

From a work perspective, you need to think beyond the boundaries, restrictions and traditions of your function/industry. Or get external perspectives.

The best ways to do this are to think like a child, trade problems with another person, pretend you’re solving someone else’s problem or distance yourself from the situation.


Find the time and the space for solitude, which provides you with some well deserved “me” time.

Solitude helps to stimulate the part of the brain known as the default or imagination network.

This area is responsible for creating mental simulations based on past experiences and also for imagining alternative perspectives/scenarios to the present.


More than anything else, you have to constantly strive to be creative.

Finding that innovative idea or approach doesn’t happen overnight, but after many, many attempts of frustrating and seemingly endless striving.

The best creative minds have come up with A LOT of ideas/stuff over time. Not all of then were great. But that increased the chances of them arriving at something which was amazing.

Good ideas can take time:



Innovation For Organisations & Entrepreneurs: Expert Interview with Stephen Shapiro

innovation creativity

If you look at innovation as producing one big idea, then you’re looking at it all wrong.

Innovation instigator Stephen Shapiro says the purpose of innovation is agility, not one-time change. For a business to be successful, ongoing change is necessary.

“When the pace of change outside of your organization is faster than the pace of change within, you’ll be out of business,” he says. “The pace of change is, of course, explosive right now.”

Stephen has made it his business to help companies improve their innovation practices by serving as a consultant, advisor, speaker and trainer.

Here, he checks in to share his insight on what organisations and entrepreneurs can do, to foster innovation within their organizations. Here’s what he had to say:

What’s your professional background and area of expertise?

I started my professional career with Accenture, the large management-consulting firm, back in 1986 (then they were Arthur Andersen’s consulting business).

From 1995 through 2001, I focused on helping companies grow through innovation. Then in 2001, my first book, 24/7 Innovation, was published. I used that as an opportunity to leave Accenture and start my own innovation business.

Today, I help companies grow through speeches, books and advisory services on innovation.

How did you become so passionate about innovation?

From 1993 through 1995, I was a co-lead of Accenture’s “Business Process Re-engineering” practice. Our role was to help companies become more efficient.

Sadly, this often resulted in massive downsizing and job loss.

After realizing I didn’t want to be responsible for people losing their jobs, I worked with others to create a 20,000-person practice focused on growth through innovation.

I’m proud to say that in the past 20 years, I have not been responsible for one lost job.

What can business owners and entrepreneurs do to spur innovation?

First, recognize that innovation and creativity are not the same thing.

Creativity is about ideas. Innovation is an end-to-end process that starts with an issue, problem, challenge, or opportunity; and ends with the creation of value.

Given this definition of innovation, the key thing business owners can do to help spur innovation is to provide clarity around how innovation is specifically defined for your organization.

I like to say, “Innovate Where You Differentiate.” You can’t innovate everywhere. So determine what sets you apart from everyone else and focus your energies there.

In your observations, what are killers of innovation?

There are some obvious (and well-worn) killers of innovation (e.g., “yeah, but”).

I alluded to one in the previous question: trying to innovate everywhere. It is just not possible if you want to get a high return on your innovation efforts. Not every idea is a good idea. And not every area of your business has to be innovated.

Confirmation bias is one of the biggest killers of innovation, because it makes organizations continue to invest in ideas that should have been killed off – robbing other, better ideas of the time, money and resources they need. When you think, “wow, this is a great idea,” your brain only looks for evidence to support your belief.

The reason why 70 percent of innovations fail is because we get too attached to our ideas. Knowing what ideas to “kill” is the best way to stop killing innovation.

What do you think are some outdated ideas about how to get employees and teams to think creatively?

Think outside the box.

This expression is used to indicate that people need to think creatively. But this is terrible advice. I suggest that people “find a better box.” Or, as Einstein reputedly said, “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions.”

From my experience, most companies are spending 60 minutes solving problems that don’t matter.

Asking for ideas is a bad idea because it creates a lot of noise. Instead, ask people (employees, customers, vendors, partners) for solutions to well-framed challenges. This reduces noise and increases innovation ROI massively.

How should businesses that want to be innovation leaders approach hiring?

It is important to recognize that “expertise is the enemy of innovation.”

When you only hire experts, you only get incremental improvements over past solutions.

Breakthroughs require people from multiple disciplines. However, this does not mean you need to formally hire these people into your organization.

Open innovation, crowdsourcing and strategic partnerships can be great ways of bringing in external thinking. There is so much more that can be said on this topic, but there is not enough space to address it fully.

What businesses or industries do you think have mastered innovative thinking? What can we learn from them?

There are a few companies I think understand innovation. And no, I am not referring to Apple or Google. They are great, but they are overused examples. Here are three I like:

  1. USAA is a financial services organization that only serves people from the military. They are very clear on what innovation means: making the lives of their members (customers) better. They have the highest customer service rankings and unbelievable retention figures.
  2. 3M’s product development is unlike any other in the world. They do an amazing job of cross-pollinating solutions from one area to another. They will take a solution from adhesives and find ways of applying it to, for example, reflectives or abrasives. This has had a massive impact on their profitability.
  3. When you think of innovation, we tend to think of sexy and high-tech. But one of the most innovative companies produces Lycra, Stainmaster Carpets, Brawny Paper Towels and Dixie Cups. What makes them special is their approach to experimentation. Decision-making is pushed to the lowest level of the organization, where funding is given to conduct small scalable experiments. This reduces risk and ensures products are ready for the marketing before the big investments are made.

What inspires you to think creatively?

My downtime is critical. I love to sit in hot tubs or on beaches.

This calms my mind and quiets the judgmental parts of my brain. I use this time to reflect and develop some of my best solutions.

And the last word – solutions – is critical. Ideas are great. But I prefer to find solutions to real problems that people/companies have; solutions that uniquely address their needs in a creative way.

Connect with Stephen on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook.

How Researchers Found Fidgeting at Your Desk Promotes Creative Thinking

fidget toys work success

Sometimes you might find yourself stuck on a work project and just need a boost of creative juice to get the ball rolling again. And now researchers at New York University have found that fiddling with a gadget on your desk could do just that.

It has been proven that certain hand movements not only improve focus but promote creative thinking. So grab your own fidget widget and get inspired as you keep reading.

A Creative Solution to Regain Your Focus

NYU researchers at the School of Engineering led by doctoral student Michael Karlesky, recently took 40 workers and gave them various fidget widgets from a Slinky, pen, rings, magnets, blu tack, to a set of smooth stones, in order to see how interacting with these devices promotes creativity, eases anxiety, and helps people focus while on the job.

The results were quite interesting. By simply manipulating everyday objects, participants not only saw a decrease in their overall stress levels but were more apt to generate creative ideas and stay focused.

This recent NYU study is at the forefront of an emerging field called “embodied cognition” which analyzes how cognitive function is affected by movement and your immediate environment.

Other studies performed by Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles found that physical interaction while learning improved memory retention and information recall. Out of 327 students studied, those that took longhand notes during a lecture versus those who used a computer were more likely to retain the information and provide better answers to conceptual questions.

Putting the Findings into Use

Looking for some ideas to put this into practice? Your fidget widget can be anything from a few smooth stones to a high-end toy like the Executive Sandbox by Brookstone. Not only can your fidget widget improve your thinking and creative reasoning, it can also be a way to spark conversations at work helping you build rapport with coworkers.

The opportunity to experiment with these findings is endless. And now Karlesky’s team at NYU is encouraging people to engage with his study by bringing their own devices to work. Through a social media campaign that he hopes to utilize in his research, Karlesky has asked people around the world to post photos and videos of their fidget widget along with a description of its benefits at