According to Theodore Levitt of Harvard Business School, “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things”.
Tot up the number of university researchers and potting shed inventors, throw in the army of patent lawyers, TTO staff and others helping them , and it’s clear there is a great deal of Thinking Up New Things going on.
But is there enough effective innovation going on to match this? Not by a country mile, I suggest. In established businesses it happens at the margins if at all. In startups it’s central but the failure rates are eye-watering.
Formal understanding of how to innovate is only now emerging. (We’ve known how to do creativity for decades). Few organisations have it as their primary activity. Absent such things, it’s hard to learn to be an innovator. That means few truly able practitioners, which means few successful innovations.
So when might innovation catch up with creativity? My belief: when innovating is similarly established as a career, and when its infrastructure looks as mature as the creativity infrastructure. And when no-one needs a Harvard professor to point out the difference.