reason 52

Reason is a monthly missive from the partners of Essex Two, a vertically integrated communication consultancy. We invite our readers to think in new ways about their business, their customers and the opportunities for meaningful communication between them. Joseph and Nancy Essex

Creativity and/or Innovation?  Thomas and Michael are identical twins, so much so their father surreptitiously marked the bottom of Thomas’ right foot for almost two years before their personalities became obvious. Tate and Lane are fraternal twins—one sandy blond with green eyes, the other brown and brown with olive skin. No problem telling one from the other there.

Creativity and innovation are like twins. At first, they can look identical. But when you get to know them, they’re fraternal.

Is this a distinction without a difference? Those who see innovation as a product or a destination notice the similarities. Those who see creativity as a process or a journey will appreciate the differences.

Vive la différence!  In the international world of business, innovation is a managed activity. Institutionalized innovation is a linear endeavor, consisting of basic research, applied research, incubation, development, testing, manufacturing, deployment, support, and the continuous refining of the current product.

Each stage is planned to accomplish a specific task in turn stimulating the start of the next stage. When problems occur, the last completed stage is checked, evaluated, corrected and repeated. This system has become the most productive way to focus effort, utilize talent and allocate resources.

What innovation does best is to refine and simplify an initial concept to its most efficient and profitable conclusion. The Japanese didn't invent the tape recorder but rethought it with two-thirds fewer parts and a 90% reduction in size from the original "box." This kind of innovation lead to the Walkman® and a dramatic shift in personalized recorded music.

Where innovation identifies a goal and moves toward a conclusion, creativity is an aha! moment, a discovery, an unexpected outcome. From the Post-it® note to Velcro® to Gatorade®, creativity is a journey without a destination and a process born of active awareness and an open mind. While most successful international corporations invest in innovation, very few understand how creativity works, how it differs from innovation or how to identify, prepare and stimulate those with the potential for creative development.

The residue of discipline is freedom  When the innovation pipeline is working well it produces its own byproduct: permission. Within this structured environment deference is provided to individuals who demonstrate an ability to think in new ways. They recognize and appreciate those aha! moments of creativity that might have otherwise have gone unnoticed and morph them into any number of possibilities. In this way both lightning bugs and lightning can be captured in a bottle.

There are ways to identify and cultivate those individuals within your organization that can turn permission into mission, creativity and innovation. The partners of Essex Two have over 35 years of experience helping organizations and individuals translate information into imagination into application and then into successful communication. Visit the Essex Two website for case studies that demonstrate our ability to stimulate the success of our clients.

Worth your time:  Rather than recommend a particular book, we suggest a visit to the library, the bookstore and/or the internet to look up four contemporary individuals who stimulated their own creativity and channel that energy into innovation. By examining their journeys you could very well find your own. Paul MacCready designed and built the first man-powered aircraft from aluminium tubing and dry cleaning bags. Michael Graves redefined architecture by using traditional materials in new ways and transforming housewares into sculpture while separating one mass retailer from all the others. And Charles and Ray Eames, whose capacity to translate information into understanding through books, exhibits, furniture, interiors and films was stopped only by their passing.

Special Note:  The last four years of reason are now available on our website.

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