Context for Creativity and Innovation
There are many different definitions of creativity: novelty that is useful is the one used by many Creativity Professionals.
I like to take that understanding a little deeper to help clients appreciate that each person has his/her own style for expressing creativity – for generating new ideas and making new decisions that create new futures.
To me, creativity results from a restlessness to improve current conditions, it’s personal, it encompasses all that it means to be human, how we think, feel and act. Creativity is new ideas and new decisions that are novel and relevant for me.
Innovation on the other hand is societal, it encompasses all that it means to live among others, how we interact, influence and meet needs. Innovation is new ideas and new decisions that are novel and relevant for the group.
Differentiating between creativity and innovation in this way provides a one-two step for clients to bridge into innovation. It encompasses the people using processes to create new products or services with the intention of others adapting them at some point in time.
A Bigger Context for Understanding Innovation
My take on creativity and innovation is within a larger social-cultural context. I studied cultural anthropology and minored in creative studies as an undergrad.
Cultural or social anthropology pays attention to a group’s non-genetically shared attitudes, beliefs, traditions, values, goals, and social practices and systems that characterizes it as unique from others. One of culture‘s purposes is to comfort people, assuring predictable behaviours. By the time children are 10 years old, for example, they know what is right and wrong, good and bad, proper and inappropriate in their milieu. Do something wrong at the dinner table, and you get your hand slapped. In organizations, learning the culture of ‘how we do things here’ (e.g. the politics, policies and procedures) can take up to six months and beyond.
One anthropologist who studied non-human primates, W.C. McGrew, developed a framework for understanding the process of culture that can be used as a trigger to spark creative thinking throughout stages of innovation adoption/diffusion – breaking free from the perceived boundaries of culturally defined norms – to generate new ideas and make new decisions.
This guide is newly adapted from McGrew’s work to highlight levels of innovation thinking extending from coming up with a new idea through to others adopting it. (Made it up this morning. Your feedback is welcome.). Key to remember is that you are making up the answers in each level and not looking for what has worked in the past. Conditions are changing too quickly to rely solely on best-practice responses. Making up and/or discovering new answers lies at the heart of creative thinking and creative problem solving.
Level One: A new pattern of behaviour (product, service, process, etc.) is invented, or an existing one is modified. How to end a pet peeve, make life better, improve on what exists, make something different that responds to a need?
Level Two: The innovator transmits this pattern to another. How might others be influenced to adopt the behaviour?
Level Three: The form of the pattern is consistent within and across performers, perhaps even in terms of recognizable stylistic features. In what ways might this new behaviour be introduced incrementally?
Level Four: The one who acquires the pattern retains the ability to perform it long after having acquired it. How might this new behaviour reinforced?
Level Five: The pattern spreads across social units in a population. How might this new behaviour roll out to other groups, nations, networks?
Level Six: The pattern endures across generations. In what ways might this new behaviour become a template for sustainability (people, planet, profit)?
Innovation attempts to influence aspects of culture. Hurdles to its adoption can be overcome by using creative thinking. Perseverance helps too.
- The Power of a Shared and Valued Purpose (positivepsychologynews.com)