What’s the Definition of Innovation? 3 Creativity and Innovation Definitions You Need to Know

What’s the Definition of Innovation? 3 Creativity and Innovation Definitions You Need to Know

Grow Your Creativity


“Creativity” and “innovation” are often used interchangeably but they are not synonyms, just like “creative” and “artistic” are not the same. Yet most people experience some confusion or misunderstanding around such words. They are used in varied contexts, often inaccurately. What is the real meaning of innovation, creativity, and imagination? The following three definitions clarify these important words that we need to get right when we are leading for growth and change. 

Imagination: The ability to form ideas or concepts that do not yet exist or are not yet known. 

In his classic book Applied Imagination, Alex Osborn, one of the pioneers of using deliberate creative process at work, identified both creative and non-creative imagination. For example, worry and daydreaming are forms of non-creative imagination. They do not necessarily lead to action or change. Osborn termed the most productive form of imagination “creative imagination” or “applied imagination.” 

Creativity: Breaking through the inertia of no by seeking new possibilities and finding valuable solutions (Kathryn P. Haydon, The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative); thinking differently. 

Creativity occurs when an idea in your imagination has been voiced or actualized, often as a new way to solve a problem. “Creativity is more than imagination. It is imagination inseparably coupled with both intent and effort,” wrote Osborn.

Innovation: The implementation of a new idea, product, service, or way of doing business. 

Innovation is the result of creativity and occurs after a new idea or concept has been implemented. Gerard Puccio, Marie Mance, Laura Switalski, and Paul Reali describe three forms of innovation in their book Creativity Rising: The effect of creativity in our own lives is personal change, the effect of creativity on society is social change, and the effect of creativity in business or on a broad scale is innovation.

Next time you’re in the board room or office and you hear people throwing around terms like innovation, creativity, and imagination, double-check these definitions to ensure you’re all on the same page and can move forward strategically.  



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Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.

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