The link between innovation and creativity

There’s so much talk about innovation and disruption that it can be hard to put it into practice. When an organisation says—we want to be more innovative—what exactly does that mean and how should individuals respond.

On the surface innovation seems easy, it’s just about coming up with different ways of doing things, so new processes or new products. But the gap between where we are and how we do things now, and where we want to get to by doing things differently can seem huge. I mean, when you are used to doing things in one way, how do you develop the thinking that enables you to see how things could be done differently.

I think that there’s a huge gap here that organisations are not bridging. It’s not enough to be told or expected to do things differently, individuals have to develop their skills in terms of thinking creatively and responding creatively to challenges.

Creative thinking hasn’t traditionally been seen as a core skill in corporate environments. Creativity is seen as something that lives in marketing and advertising teams, it’s an artistic skill, rather than a general skill which everyone can access.

But at the same time there is actually a huge body of work about creativity and the study of creativity that individuals and organisations can access. I think that one of the best frameworks for understanding creative thinking and where ideas come from is James Rhodes Melville’s 4 Ps framework. The 4 Ps are:

The Creative Person

The Creative Product

The Creative Press (environment)

The Creative Process

Broadly speaking the more we can understand these 4 Ps—i.e what makes a creative person? What kind of traits to they have? What is a creative process?—then the more likely we are to be able to understand creative thinking and put it to good use in the corporate field.

We should also think on how we come up with ideas and understand our own organic process. For example, nearly all creative problem solving or thinking techniques include these four stages

  • Critical/analytic thinking about the problem
  • Incubation (don’t think directly on the problem)
  • Critical/analytical thinking about proposed solutions
  • Verification (try it out – does it work)

Imagine taking this framework and using it consciously to solve problems at work or in your own personal life. Try it on for size!