Several recent events prompt this post, a post I’ve never really felt compelled to write.

After the Intrepid podcast discussion with Todd Schnick about the distinction between creativity and innovation, a follow-up email from Chuck Dymer quoting  John Adair’s categorization of creation and innovation, and Saturday’s #Ideachat about what constitutes creativity, I guess it’s time to just come out and say it:

I don’t spend time seeking out, reading, or thinking about “creativity” and “innovation” definitions.

Creativity and Innovation – Do they define you? Do you define them?

Don’t take my comment to mean I haven’t spent any time defining these words for innovation and creativity presentations I do.

But in a world where so many forces seem hell bent on stifling creativity and innovation, complex and rigid definitions of these terms seem more likely to contribute to stifling than instigating them.

Creativity Seems to Be Lots of Things

For example, it was fascinating during #Ideachat when the various “creativity” definitions ranged from portraying creativity as an act, a result, an inherited talent, a learned ability, to a place (i.e., side or location) in the brain. And there were probably other variations I didn’t even catch.

Several of these creativity definitions make it pretty easy for people who are so inclined to say, “Heck, I’ll never be creative.”

And that, my friends, sucks.

It sucks for the people who give up on creativity and innovation because it robs them of a lot of the excitement of life.

It also sucks when your career is focused on trying to get all kinds of people excited and open to using their knowledge and talents to come up with new ideas.

When Creativity Is a Perspective, It’s Attainable by Everyone

That’s why the creativity definition Jan and I used considers creativity as a “perspective.” It’s damn near impossible for anyone to say they can’t embrace and exhibit a perspective. And in those very precious situations working with clients on how to make their organizations (and their team members) better, you can’t afford for someone to let themselves off the hook when it comes to being creative and innovative!

What do you think? What do creativity and innovation mean for you? – Mike Brown


The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at [email protected] or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can help you devise a successful innovation strategy for your organization.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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7 Responses to “Creativity and Innovation Definitions and Why I Don’t Think about Them”

  1. John Caswell says:

    Aha, the tyranny of definition. Yes completely agree it’s a tempting thread and yet it leads to untold misery and unintentional pitfall. Am going to steal, like a good creative, your idea about perspective. Brilliant. I will leave you with this quote which I always find stops the debate appropriately “The definition of definition – The wilderness of idea trapped within a wall of words.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Appreciate you weighing in John!

      There is certainly value in many definitions which do a careful job of identifying what’s in and what’s out on certain topics. I just don’t feel that creativity is a topic which benefits from those types of clear-cut distinctions.

  2. Mike – I’m glad you decided to write this! Forcing definitions and titles or designations stifles everyone. It puts us in a box within which we then think we have to operate. “I’m creative.” “I’m not creative.” “I’m the Marketing Manager, therefore I have to be creative.” “I’m on the line; I can’t be creative.”
    It’s absurd. Everyone has ideas and everyone has blocks. Painting people into specific roles by a definition limits the individual’s contribution & growth, and then the company suffers as a result.
    Let’s quit debating it, and just do it – whatever it’s called. I say we drop creativity & innovation and substitute in brainzooming!

    • Anonymous says:

      Now I wish I’d have taken a picture at Barkley (a Kansas City-based agency) tonight. We were there for a Kairos Web Analytics meeting, and got a great tour of their very cool building. There was a graphic along one staircase which said, “Creativity and innovation can change the world.”

      I like that perspective.

      Almost as much as I like your idea to throw them out and call it all “Brainzooming,” Wendy!

  3. Murfomurf says:

    This sounds like my sort of place!  I’ve just been cut off at the first hurdle, applying for a job in a social innovation group- it was a government-funded incubator for discovering local solutions, by asking communities what they needed, and working out how to get them on a sustainable way to a goal. Being an older worker, coming from a background in health research, I thought I had a pretty good track record in applying creative thinking to social (health) issues. I have collaborated on projects with people from many backgrounds and professions, talked with and video-ed people (clients/patients) of all ages (newborns to 90 year olds) about often embarrassing topics, created internationally used surveys and questionnaires, sat on government committees ranging from children’s television content to the weight control industry, talked at international conferences- even impromptu. But I am missing something: I “need to show more evidence and experience with creative and generative thinking”. Is there a definition for this that I have missed in my travels, or am I too old and not in tune with today’s meanings?

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe it’s not so much the definition of “creative and generative thinking,” but the “need to SHOW more evidence” of it. Maybe there’s an opportunity to package and demonstrate your expertise in a new way, i.e. via social media. That’s why I recommend to people creatiing a blog since it becomes a much longer, deeper, and compelling version of a resume. It doesn’t have to be hundreds of pages, but it’s an opportunity to have a findable, multimedia demonstration that you not only have quality experience, but continue to address and work in the area relevant to the position you’re seeking.

      This link is to a post highlighting a presentation I did to a group of mid-career professionals about the value of building out a stronger online presence: http://brainzooming.com/business-social-networking-11-mid-career-steps/6537/

      I just connected with you on Twitter and look forward to carrying on the conversation as you continue to search for a job.


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