Prometheus Consulting - Organisation Development and Strategic Human Resource Consultancy

 Innovation 

What do we mean by innovation and being innovative, and how do we distinguish this from creativity? By 'innovative' we mean the systematic capacity of organisations to successfully exploit new ideas in a commercial context, wherever and whenever they arise and to whatever they might be applied.

We therefore make a firm distinction between creativity and innovation. Whereas the dominant focus of creativity is on the individual, innovation is more firmly located as a property of the organisation. Both are important, are symbiotic and respond to organisational management. You cannot have innovation without creativity, and there is little point in a company having individually creative employees unless that is channelled into innovation benefiting the organisation and its customers.

Managers in organisations typically understand creativity better than they do innovation. And because the training market predominantly addresses individuals and their skills, creativity receives more attention and funding than does innovation. Interventions aimed at improving innovation are more subtle and complex than those that seek to make individuals more creative or try to encourage more ideas to come forward. But it is at the interface with the organisation's needs, systems and dynamics where the biggest payback exists.

This wider perspective of innovation is often overlooked, particularly given that western culture gives primacy to the individual. But innovation as defined here is fundamental to long-term business success. Such capability is widely seen as holding one of the most important keys to unlocking competitive advantage.

William Tate, the Director of Prometheus Consulting, co-authored Opportunity Through People, published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

His The Business Innovation Audit is an organisation development toolkit published by Triarchy Press.