Creativity and Innovation: Are they the Same Thing?

Creativity and Innovation

These terms are often used interchangeably when describing new ideas, processes, and products but there is a key difference that is worth considering. Creativity exists only in our minds until we use it to do or create something. Innovation is when we ACT on our creative thoughts. How do we know if someone is creative? Well, we're all creative in a way, but there are those people who frequently contribute interesting or unique ideas to a conversation. How do we know if that same person innovative? There will be products of their creativity to point to for evidence.

Innovative people are creative, but not all creative people are innovative.

In the realm of Innovation

We might better understand innovation in contrast to other terms having to do with creating or shaping systems. Of course, these are overly simplistic statements, but they create an idea space to understand how innovation is different from other forms of change.

  • Rehabilitation returns a damaged system to a previous state.
  • Renovation improves existing systems.
  • Reformation modifies existing systems based on a familiar model.
  • Transformation shifts from one known system to another known system.
  • Innovation is creating completely new systems.

Acting on Creativity

How many of us have awesome ideas but never get around to doing anything with them? Translating ideas into actions is hard, takes energy and commitment. Whether the restraints are logistical, motivational, or legal, there are plenty of creative ideas that never have a chance to live in the world (and plenty that probably shouldn't!).

My own personal challenge is to do more translating, to act more on creative thoughts, to have some product that could be used elsewhere. This blog has been part of that effort - sharing and deconstructing innovative efforts and identifying their utility. "But what have I done..." is the reflective question I ask that leads to the goal oriented statement, "What will I do..."

Always enjoy hearing others' thoughts (creative or otherwise).


  1. Daniela says:

    Hi Miles,

    By reading your thoughts on creativity and innovation, I was reminded of Twain's quote "There is no such thing as a new idea"; he maintains that it is virtually impossible to come up with something new and that everything that we think and do is the product of one's personal application/ elaboration ( I think this is quite an elegant solution: We are all thinking about the same concepts, but in different ways. Also, as you have mentioned already, not everyone acts on their ideas and not every idea becomes concrete. I can relate to your willingness to act more on your ideas.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    Daniela (PME 811)

    • milesmac says:

      Daniela -
      It has long been suggested that "there is nothing new under the sun" which I always thought was Shakespeare but turns out is from Ecclesiastes. In searching, I came across a biblical commentary ( that shared quotes from Tacitus, Marcus Arelius, and Seneca all of whom expressed the same sentiment. It was Shakespeare who wrote, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." - Hamlet (1.5.167-8).
      I'm going to speculate that repetitive cycles are probably related to human interactions and relationships moreso than invention and innovation. Smartphones, for example are new products - arguably an integration of existing technologies, but the things we do with them are familiar. Lots to think about for sure!

  2. Carolynn says:

    Hi Miles

    I enjoyed reading about your comparison to innovation and creativity. It was great to see it being broken down. Since I started this course my understanding about these two terms have grown. Yes they are similar to each other. But showing the differences helped me see the terms separately. I agree creativity is about thinking and innovation is about acting on that creative thought. It not innovative until you do something with it. I have seen a lot of people who are creative. They put their own ideas and spin on a task or project. They are creative in how they make a decision. They are creative in how they cook or bake something. So you can be creative in every part of life. Someone's creativity will be unique to them in regards to how they show it. Everyone is different.

    I also agree that acting on ideas can be a challenge. For me, I have come up with a lot of creative ideas and thoughts. But most of the time I don't do anything with it and just let it go and fade way. Weeks or months later the idea come backs and I regret that I did not act on that idea then because it could of provided something amazing for the place I was in at the time. I think this happens to everyone. It does take time, effort and planning for great ideas to come into action. This long process I feel scares people and make them hold back on acting on their idea. It's very interesting to see why many people don't act on creative ideas. I hope you uncover this more.

    Learning about innovation and creativity has certainly motivated me to act more on my ideas and bring them to life either to make or produce something. Great Blog!

    • milesmac says:

      Carolynn - it's almost scary to think about all the amazing ideas people didn't act on over the years. I suppose that has a lot to do with our own personal goals and priorities and skill sets. Thanks for the comment!

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