Innovation vs. Innovative vs. Creativity: The differences12 min read

The word innovation gets confused with a lot of terms in the tech space. People often associate innovation with other words like capacity and growth. Sometimes, people mistakenly refer to it as its related terms, like creativity and invention.

It is vital to understand the difference between these words to gain clarity and value from the innovation processes of the enterprise. Such distinction leads to a proper structure of roles, tasks, and responsibilities in the company.

In this article, let us examine the meaning of each term and identify how they differ from one another. Moreover, let us also cite some examples in order to develop a clear understanding of their proper usage.

Let’s start!

Defining Innovation, Innovative, and Creativity

So what do these terms mean and how do they differ from one another?


Most companies think of innovation as the production of the next Uber or Apple in their market. 

However, there is more to innovation than meets the eye.

It is the process of realizing new products, processes, propositions, or business models to create added value for customers and employees.

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In other words, innovation means transforming new concepts into widespread use. It happens when organizations generate bold ideas, develop them, and bring them to the public eye.

There are a lot of innovation examples in the world today. Some of these can be as great as Tesla’s electric cars or even something as simple as Thomas Edison’s lightbulb created centuries back.


Oxford Languages, the dictionary that Google uses when you research a word, defines innovative as an adjective that describes both a product/idea and a person.

The same source states that when a product is innovative, it features new products and is advanced and original. Meanwhile, a person is innovative when he or she introduces new ideas and is original and creative in thinking.

In short, being innovative is the trait used to describe a product, a person, or an organization that applies innovation in its features, thoughts, and processes.

As these entities produce or execute added value for people, they are in the state of being innovative.


Creativity is a concept that’s necessary for an organization to be innovative. It uses one’s imagination to produce new ideas and create optimal solutions for existing problems.

When applied, this notion leads people to think outside the box in addressing or resolving challenges that can potentially hinder growth.

Instinctively, creativity is what makes innovation possible. Having it is what makes an individual innovative. It is what makes companies conceive valuable concepts and ideas that they eventually transform into products and services.

By the way, we recently published an innovation ebook where we went deeper about innovation framework, roadmap, execution, and a lot more. Feel free to download it today — it’s totally free.

What is the difference between innovation and innovative?

The differences between these words are observable. While innovative points out that a product or an individual applies or executes innovation in any way, innovation suggests something structured and processed-oriented.

Innovation refers to products, business models, processes, and services that are remarkably new and different in their industries.

However, the term innovative is more of an attitude, a point of view, or an approach than a result. It is a perspective that details how someone or something has contributed change, progress, value, and modification to existing processes, organizations, fields, and other people.

What is the difference between innovation and creativity?

As the business landscape is fast-paced, you must understand the difference between creativity and innovation.

Creativity refers to the potential of the mind to generate substantially significant ideas for the growth of the business. These thoughts manifest themselves in plenty of ways. However, they usually end up as concrete products that we can buy or services that we can avail.

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On the contrary, innovation happens when organizations make changes in stable systems or create new products that meet their customers’ needs.

Innovation results from a company’s creative use of resources to produce the best solutions that could help resolve their clients’ problems.

Moreover, innovation is measurable through specific metrics that the company can agree on before implementing ideas. Creativity, however, is subjective, so evaluating it might be a little difficult to do.

What makes innovation innovative?

Innovations are innovative when they continuously refine the customer experience that the company offers to its market. It gets the organization distinguished from the competition.

Innovative innovations materialize through products, processes, models, concepts, designs, and services that are different, significant, unique, and remarkable for others.

From a business perspective, innovative innovations contribute an entirely new dimension to the enterprise. It adds something to the organization, like new processes, for instance, to establish a line of products and services that could cater to the evolving needs of its clientele.

Furthermore, innovation is innovative when it introduces a new and improved way of doing things. It advocates progress and continuously equips enterprises for future technological changes.

It creates concrete and practical results that encourage people to look at products and companies from a different perspective.

Indicators of Innovative Innovations

Specifically, innovations are innovative when they have the following attributes:

  1. DisruptiveProducts, processes, and services are innovative when they disrupt the status quo of their respective industries. These innovations must be interesting and must contain unique value and cost differentiation to set itself apart from the companies operating in the same industry.
  2. Adds value to their buyers. These innovations have to be useful enough to make people’s lives better, or valuable enough for customers to purchase. Innovative innovations are customer-centric, with optimal cost and timing. Innovation becomes innovative once it alleviates the lives of both the organization and its customers. It transfigures knowledge and ideas into benefits that can help make lives easier.
  3. Introduces changes. Aside from being entirely unique and different, innovative innovations can modify existing systems and processes for growth. A great example of this is when businesses shift from cash registers to POS terminals or online payment channels like Paypal and Transferwise.

What comes first — creativity or innovation?

Again, creativity and innovation are two different things, but they are both necessary for the success of your business.

As stated before, creativity is a primary factor for businesses to be innovative, so innovation can never occur without creativity on board. People who are not keen on taking risks in going beyond the norm might find it hard to be innovative at times.

Creativity refers to the ability of an organization to solve problems with great ideas. Innovation, on the other hand, is the implementation of ideas that adds value to the people. Hence, creativity, if not the most basic element, is an essential component of innovation.

In this domain, the innovation manager has to know how to connect the innovation strategy to the business strategy.

It is what makes viable ideas come to mind, while innovation converts these ideas into a reality. Creativity pedals the production of ideas, while innovation, through creativity-induced results, brings revenue and profit.

Managers sometimes interchange these terms for one another, but creativity does not really equate to innovation in the very sense of the word. Rather, it paves the way for innovation to happen.

When companies perform brainstorm sessions, plenty of new ideas get conceived. This time is when creativity gets displayed. However, until these ideas get implemented, innovation is yet to start.

However, innovation is not limited to breakthrough products. It can come as a result of tweaking and modifying existing products, processes, or even interactions. It is also a process that’s scalable and replicable.

To put it simply, creativity breeds viable solutions, while innovation puts ideas to work.

Why are innovation and creativity important?

There are plenty of reasons why innovation and creativity are important in an organization.

First of all, both are catalysts of growth. Creativity is the basic ingredient of the innovation process. It affects the quality of ideas that companies can generate for future implementation.

It influences the way they perceive things, hence making it a powerful component of how they formulate solutions to the problems currently faced by the organization.

Aside from the innovation process, creativity also affects other operations, processes, and departments of a business enterprise.

Creativity may affect marketing and branding strategies. Reaching out to customers creatively is important not only to expand your customer base, but also to save time, money, and other resources.

Moreover, innovation and creativity, when executed properly, may create a domino effect on how the organization operates.

Innovation, on the other hand, is imperative to achieve economic growth and gain a competitive advantage against institutions operating in the same industry.

It improves current work processes and may cut unnecessary expenditure, so customer service improves at the same time. When this happens, customer satisfaction takes place, and business revenue gains increase.

Seeing results like these keep employees inspired. Employee satisfaction increases and the business then performs better.

How do you develop creativity and innovation?

Companies can foster innovation within their organization. They can create activities that encourage creativity and innovation, like holding innovation challenges, for instance.

Holding competitions like that is an exciting way to gather ideas from different people, both inside and outside the organization.

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A great example of this would be the Facebook hackathon, an innovation competition that led to the creation of notable features in the social media platform, such as the like button and the Facebook timeline.

The management can also include the employees in brainstorming sessions. This will make them feel that their inputs are important to the organization. Plus, this would crowdsource more ideas for the company to study and consider.

Knowing how open you are to their ideas encourages them to share the brilliant concepts they have in mind. Adobe understands this principle the most, as exhibited in their innovation kit called Kickbox.

This box contains a pen, a set of instruction cards, notebooks, notepads, a bar of chocolate, and a prepaid card with $1000 that they can utilize to experiment with their innovative ideas. Anyone can request this kit and begin unboxing their creativity.

Although it’s easy to understand the differences between innovation, innovative, and creativity, there are a lot of concepts and principles to learn to be able to organize innovation for your company.

How about you hop into one of our regular innovation webinar sessions? It’s free to join and you will hear directly from Steven Kop himself, the CEO and founder of Accept Mission.

Published On: July 22nd, 2021Categories: Innovation management

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