Business creativity and innovation: definition, differences, management

Milthon Lujan Monja

Business creativity and innovation. Organizations must foster an innovative culture among their employees. Prepared by DELL.E
Business creativity and innovation. Organizations must foster an innovative culture among their employees. Prepared by DELL.E

Creativity and innovation are two indispensable pillars of success in the dynamic and ever-evolving business landscape. These intertwined forces drive growth, enhance competitive advantage, and enable businesses to navigate the complexities of a constantly changing market. While often used interchangeably, creativity and innovation represent distinct yet complementary concepts that together form a powerful catalyst for business transformation.

Idea management will play a significant role in driving growth and resilience in organizations (Cohendet and Simon, 2015), particularly in businesses. Today, the most successful companies are those with an innovation strategy; however, it’s crucial to understand that innovative products result from creative and innovative processes.

A common mistake in the business world is to assume that creativity and innovation are synonymous. Creativity is not innovation, but both are necessary for success in your company. This article aims to describe the application of business creativity and innovation.

What is Business Creativity and Innovation?

As previously described, creativity can be defined as “the ability to develop new ideas and ways to address problems and seize opportunities.” Innovation, on the other hand, is defined as “the implementation of a new or significantly improved product, service, or process that creates value for a business, government, or society.”

Creativity is an individual’s ability to create and devise something new and original to solve a problem, while innovation is the art of turning ideas into new or improved products, processes, and services that the market recognizes and values (Montes De Oca, 2012; Primi and Wechsler, 2018), and that people genuinely need (Patmore et al., 2009).

Thus, business creativity and innovation can be considered as a process, where creativity in business encompasses the ability to generate novel and original ideas with the potential to add value to the organization. It involves challenging the status quo, breaking free from conventional thinking, and exploring uncharted territories of possibilities. Innovation, on the other hand, refers to the successful implementation of creative ideas into tangible products, services, or processes that bring about positive changes.

Regardless of the definitions provided, it is important to highlight that creativity is crucial and can be conceptualized as a necessary precondition for innovation (Joo et al., 2013). Ali et al. (2016) suggest that creativity does not necessarily lead to innovation, but there is no innovation without creativity. In summary, creativity involves generating ideas and innovation involves implementing those ideas (Mehta et al., 2014) into products or services that the market demands (Fadaee and Abd, 2014).

In summary, innovation is the bridge that connects the realm of imagination (creativity) with the realities of the market.

Difference between Creativity and Innovation

Although creativity and innovation are closely linked, it’s important to recognize that managing creativity and innovation are different skills (Patmore et al., 2009).

As previously described, creativity is related to “imagination,” while innovation is related to “implementation.”

Table 01 presents the main differences between creativity and innovation.

FocusGenerating new ideasImplementing creative ideas
NatureMental processProductive process
QuantificationCannot be quantifiedCan establish indicators
InvestmentNo monetary investment requiredRequires monetary investment
TimeNo established deadlinesSubject to product needs

The first difference between creativity and innovation lies in their focus. Alves et al. (2007) emphasize that innovation involves implementing the outcomes of creative processes; thus, creativity is a part of the innovation process. In this way, creativity precedes innovation (Ali et al., 2016).

From a personal aspect perspective, creativity is primarily an intrapersonal activity involving the generation of new ideas, whereas innovation is mainly an interpersonal activity (Lee et al., 2020) aimed at realizing those ideas.

Regarding their nature, creativity is more of a mental process for generating ideas, while innovation is a productive process for bringing ideas to life.

Researchers also note that while innovation can be quantified through the establishment of indicators, creativity cannot be quantified.

In terms of investment, creativity does not require monetary investment; however, innovation does require it to bring ideas to fruition.

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Lastly, in terms of time, creativity does not have established deadlines; however, innovation is subject to product needs.

Importance: Why Creativity and Innovation Are Crucial for Business Success

Today, there is no doubt that innovation is key for a company to compete; however, innovation requires creativity. In their study, Sarooghi et al. (2015) found a strong positive relationship between creativity and innovation, with larger and more successful firms exhibiting a stronger relationship compared to smaller companies.

Sarooghi’s results provide guidance on understanding the importance of promoting creativity in our company’s innovation processes.

Peek (2021) highlights that creativity does not lead to inventions or innovations, and therefore growth within a company, but innovation does. However, innovation will not occur without creative individuals. Thus, if you want to drive innovative processes in your company, you must first start by promoting creativity among your employees.

In today’s competitive business environment, creativity and innovation are not just desirable traits; they are essential for survival and growth. Companies that embrace these principles are better equipped to:

  • Differentiate themselves from competitors: By introducing unique and innovative offerings, companies can establish a strong brand identity and attract customers seeking new solutions.
  • Respond quickly to market changes: The ability to adapt and innovate rapidly allows companies to stay ahead, anticipate changing customer needs, and seize emerging opportunities.
  • Solve complex problems: Creativity and innovation enable companies to address challenges in novel and effective ways, leading to breakthroughs and advancements.
  • Drive sustainable growth: A culture of innovation fosters continuous improvement and the development of new products and services, driving business growth.

The Role of Creativity and Innovation in Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship, the act of starting and managing a new business, is inherently intertwined with creativity and innovation. Entrepreneurs are the driving force behind innovative ideas, transforming them into businesses that revolutionize industries and reshape the business landscape.

Key Aspects of Creativity and Innovation in Entrepreneurship:

  • Identifying unmet needs: Entrepreneurs have a keen ability to identify market gaps and unmet customer needs, providing fertile ground for innovative solutions.
  • Taking risks: Entrepreneurs are willing to take calculated risks, venturing into uncharted territory to pursue their innovative visions.
  • Resilience: The entrepreneurial journey is often fraught with challenges, but true innovators demonstrate resilience and persevere despite setbacks to bring their ideas to life.

How to Foster Creativity and Innovation in Companies

Creativity and innovation are two distinct but closely linked concepts that convert ideas into products or services. Both concepts are crucial for companies to maintain their competitive advantages.

Harnessing the power of creativity and innovation requires a strategic approach that permeates all aspects of an organization. Here are some key perspectives and best practices for fostering a culture of innovation:

  • Foster open communication and collaboration: Create a work environment where employees feel empowered to share ideas, challenge assumptions, and collaborate freely.
  • Embrace diversity of thought: Seek individuals with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to spark creativity and innovation.
  • Invest in employee development: Provide opportunities for employees to enhance their creative and problem-solving skills through training and workshops.
  • Reward and recognize innovation: Celebrate and reward employees who demonstrate innovative thinking and contribute to successful advancements.
  • Foster a culture of experimentation: Encourage experimentation and risk-taking, recognizing that not all attempts will succeed, but failures provide valuable learning opportunities.
Companies should promote collaborative work among their creative and innovative employees. Prepared by: DELL.E
Companies should promote collaborative work among their creative and innovative employees. Prepared by: DELL.E

Managing Creativity and Innovation for the Development of New Businesses

By this point, you can differentiate between creativity and innovation; however, as described by Montes de Oca (2012), both tools must work together within a company to result in changes that lead to greater customer satisfaction.

Currently, managing creativity with the aim of accelerating and enhancing innovation is a significant challenge faced by companies, occurring in an increasingly complex environment (Cohendet and Simon, 2015). Therefore, managing creativity and innovation is essential when developing a new business. But to manage them, there must first be processes that promote creativity and innovation.

Work Environment

Serrat (2017) highlights that creativity flourishes in organizations that support ideas; these organizations create environments that inspire staff and maintain innovative workplaces. The key is to use your company’s culture and processes to capture ideas as they arise (Tuvey, ?).

To manage creativity and innovation, you must not only focus on creating a culture but also provide necessary conditions (work environment, training, etc.) for your employees to develop their creative or innovative capacities. Asbari et al. (2021) reports that psychological capital significantly affects individual creativity, and both psychological capital and individual creativity significantly affect individual innovation behavior. Thus, an appropriate work environment creates conducive conditions for fostering creativity and business innovation.

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Lee (2016) studied physical workplace environment characteristics that are known and used in practice to promote creativity in start-up workplaces in Michigan. The researcher found that characteristics most frequently incorporated in innovative companies were idea-generation spaces, technological interfaces for collaboration, and spaces for brief mental breaks or social encounters. Similarly, Huang et al. (2023) found that both physical and non-physical environments positively contribute to employees’ individual and team behaviors to foster creativity and innovation processes.

Organizational Culture for Innovation

On the other hand, organizational culture also plays a key role in managing creativity in innovation. Lee et al. (2020) cite in their research that creating employees require psychologically safe and motivating spaces, whereas innovating employees need social influence and legitimacy that can be provided through leadership support and endorsement.

In this regard, Newman et al. (2018), in their study in a Chinese multinational, found that employees’ creative effectiveness on innovative behavior is more influential when employees work under a strong business leader in their team.

Finally, in a study to establish the difference between a creative person and an innovative person within corporations, Kamel et al. (2017) concluded that creative individuals are seen as participating throughout the production chain, while innovative individuals create action mechanisms for each part of the process.

Some recommended practices include:

Cultivating a Creative Mindset

  • Embrace a growth mindset: Encourage employees to believe that their skills can be developed through effort and learning. Regarding this, Mdhlalose’s (2024) research results highlight that the employees’ ability to be creative and innovative is reinforced by three types of rewards: intrinsic rewards, which positively affect intrinsic motivation, non-financial extrinsic rewards, and financial extrinsic rewards, which can encourage or discourage employees.
  • Challenge assumptions: Question the status quo and encourage employees to think innovatively.
  • Promote curiosity: Foster a culture of exploration and encourage employees to ask questions and seek new information.

Fostering a Collaborative Environment

  • Create open communication channels: Encourage employees to share ideas and collaborate freely across departments.
  • Build diverse teams: Bring together people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to stimulate creativity.
  • Use collaboration tools: Utilize technology to facilitate idea-sharing sessions, brainstorming, and project management.

Empowering Employees

  • Provide autonomy: Offer employees the freedom to make decisions and take ownership of their work.
  • Encourage experimentation: Allow employees to experiment with new ideas and approaches, even if they involve some risk. Khan (2024) recommends that managers create an environment that fosters experimentation, embraces diversity of thought, and promotes a mindset of continuous improvement.
  • Recognize and reward innovation: Celebrate and reward employees who demonstrate innovative thinking and contribute to successful advancements.

Establishing a Structured Innovation Process

  • Set clear objectives: Clearly articulate what you aim to achieve through innovation.
  • Identify opportunities: Conduct market research, gather customer feedback, and analyze internal processes to identify areas for improvement.
  • Generate ideas: Use brainstorming techniques, design thinking workshops, and crowdsourcing platforms to generate a wide range of ideas.
  • Evaluate and select ideas: Assess feasibility, potential impact, and alignment with strategic objectives for each idea.
  • Prototype and test: Develop prototypes of promising ideas to test them with real users and gather feedback.
  • Implement and scale: Once ideas are validated, effectively implement and scale them across the organization.

Harnessing Technology for Innovation

  • Use innovation management software: Employ tools to streamline the innovation process from idea generation to implementation.
  • Adopt artificial intelligence: Leverage AI to analyze data, identify patterns, and generate insights that can inform innovation efforts.
  • Explore virtual reality and augmented reality: Use these technologies to create immersive experiences and test new product concepts.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

  • Monitor industry trends: Continuously scan the market for emerging trends, technologies, and customer needs.
  • Benchmark against competitors: Analyze how competitors are innovating and identify opportunities to differentiate your business.
  • Attend industry events and conferences: Network with other innovators and stay updated on the latest trends and developments.

Cultivating a Culture of Continuous Learning

  • Promote skill development: Provide opportunities for employees to learn new skills and enhance their expertise through training and workshops.
  • Encourage knowledge sharing: Create platforms for employees to share their knowledge and experiences with each other.
  • Embrace lifelong learning: Encourage employees to adopt a mindset of continuous learning and personal growth.


Business creativity and innovation are not just about generating new ideas; they involve transforming those ideas into reality and driving business success. By cultivating a creative mindset, fostering collaboration, empowering employees, establishing a structured innovation process, harnessing technology, staying ahead, and fostering a culture of continuous learning, companies can unleash their innovative potential and thrive in a constantly changing world. Remember, innovation is not a one-time event but a continuous journey of exploration, experimentation, and adaptation. By adopting this mindset and implementing these practical strategies, companies can unlock a world of growth opportunities, success, and lasting impact.

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As emphasized by Alves et al. (2007), organizational creative capabilities are essential for their ability to innovate and survive in today’s competitive environment. In this sense, you must promote creative processes within your company if you want to drive innovation. Furthermore, as Kamel et al. (2017) aptly concludes in their study, creative and innovative individuals are more engaged in their jobs. It is your duty as a director, manager, or business owner to manage creativity and innovation among your employees to give your company a competitive edge over your competitors.

Without creativity, there is no innovation!


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