Connect with John Pisapia

Creativity+ Innovation = Game Change!

Steve Jobs was the Henry Ford of his time. Henry did not invent the automobile. He turned automotive transportation into an affordable consumer product. Steve did not invent the computer, the phone or the tablet. He turned these devices into affordable consumer products.  The car and the modern computer interface came from the creative minds of other people but were commercialized by creative innovators Ford and Jobs.

Creativity is the development of a novel idea that has value (de Bono 2011, Amiable 1996, 2004; Sternberg 1999). Being creative in a leadership sense is the capacity to see and think differently than most. But, “being creative is not enough!” 

Creativity differs from innovation. Innovation is the ability to translate new ideas into usable products, processes, or technologies. It’s the process for bringing the best ideas into the everyday work of the organization through design, demonstration, and scale up, and commercialization.

In innovation, the idea and many times the product or process has already been created. Innovators are able to make connections and perceive relationships others miss. They use these insights to change ideas, products and processes so that they work better or put them together in a way that fulfills a different need.

Henry and Steve were creative in the sense that they made connections that others missed.  While they did not create the novel idea that made them famous they connected the dots and scaled up their ventures. In this sense they were innovators.

Henry once said, “If I asked the customers what they wanted, they would have told me – a faster horse.” He thought differently and saw other connections and decided that a low cost automotive vehicle that would stand up to the rutted dirt roads of his time would work.  He did not create the automobile, but he did scale it up and made it available to the masses through his process called the assembly line.

Steve’s great ability was to see the potential of new technologies and package them in a way that would appeal to his most demanding audience: himself.  On a visit to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center he saw a graphical user interface prototype and immediately knew it was the future of computing. He had no compunction about copying the idea. Ultimately Jobs said in “Triumph of the Nerds.” “It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then trying to bring those things in to what you’re doing. I mean, Picasso had a saying. He said, ‘Good artists copy. Great artists steal.’”

Years later, when Bill Gates began to develop his windows interface, according to Andy Hertzfeld (1983) Jobs screamed at him about ripping off Apple. Gates replied “its more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox, and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

There are those who say we must create the future.  My take is that great strategic leaders like Ford and Jobs find the future.  They stay connected to the environment surrounding their industry and when they see variation and believe it will change the game, they “run for daylight.”

The takeaway is that creativity and innovation are catalytic strategies SLers use for organizational transformations.  Creativity without innovation is significantly diminished just as is innovation without creative ideas. Creative ideas feed the innovation engine where strategic leaders promote and develop them and scale them up. Standing alone, innovation is an engine without any fuel.

Creativity and innovation are also foundational concepts underpinning a strategic mindset. Creativity requires a tolerance for mistakes, an acceptance of risk and possible failure, and an investment of time and resources. Innovation is less risky since it is much easier to make meaningful improvements from something certain. It’s not like you start from zero. Think of the automobile industry, it thrives on continuous innovation. Completely new models are rare — and expensive to create. Most of what we buy are innovated improvements on last year’s model. Think of Apple’s IPhone – IPhone 4 now 4s – incremental improvements. The problem is that organizations that rely on just innovation will prosper until their products or services are no longer needed. Then you need a new creative disruptive idea changes the game and forces organizations to “jump the curve“. Then the next ten or so years we innovate on the new model.

John Pisapia 2011

Join one of SLN's Global Learning Communities!

t      tt  b
on Facebook