Creativity vs Innovation: The Creative Process And How Idea Management Solutions Fit In

Hardly anybody still doubts that innovation is the biggest driving factor for success today. And most people know that innovation is more than just an idea. Innovation means having a new concept which is an answer for a need or a solution to a problem, and successfully transforming the idea into a solution which will lead to market success. But there are a lot of different opinions on the questions of whether creativity can be forced, and if large companies can grow ideas.

Coming from a large, creative family which has created music, book, games, stories, inventions and a lot more, I was also bitten with the bug, the desire to create something. Having geeky friends as a teenager and freelancing for an idea generation company, I was always surrounded with people full of ideas. Creativity was just there and I learned a lot about it even without knowing.

Part of my studies in product development and innovation management at ETH, was a reflection on what creativity was and how it could be understood and handled. Now, after many years of helping companies create new products, I want to share with you how an idea management software solution can be useful, but not without creativity.

This short video explains what the difference between creativity and innovation is.

The principles of creativity

Essentials for creativityBasically the definition of creativity is the act of creating something new by combining things which had no relations before. So combining a banana and a scissor can lead to a curved knife, a bio material tool or just to a better scissor to slice bananas with.

But that’s not the whole story. Creativity in many disciplines also requires knowledge next to inspiration. If you don’t know anything about the physiology in organic cells for example, it will be very difficult to invent a medicine without happy accidents.

Also, there have to be minds which have the imagination to visualize the connection between two unrelated things. The ability to think divergently and to see a new solution is what the people, we call creative, do easily.

And there is good news for everybody. We are all intrinsically creative, it just needs to be unlocked.

Creativity vs Innovation

Creative vs. innovation processThe ideation part, the creative process itself, starts with an inception for a problem or a question which is an unsolved tension that wants to be solved. In the inception phase you collect information and stimuli until it is enough for the brain. Now the incubation time starts in which the brain is trying to find solutions actively or very often passively. And finally, before realisation and verification, illumination takes place. You see possible solutions.

Very simple. But also very easy not to achieve. Too little and too much pressure, wrong goals and thoughts and especially the wrong innovation culture can block this process. Creativity needs freedom but also some guidance. The right balance is the key.

Many companies are searching for improvements or the next big thing with a skilled team. They use different processes and follow steps of design thinking or other methods.

They know that an ideal innovation process has different divergent and convergent phases. Doing only the ideation phase without the analysis and research or development is not conducive to a solution. All phases are very important to guarantee continuously valuable solutions and a full innovation pipeline.

But don’t forget the other people and their knowledge. Use the whole potential. Involve your customers and all, really all your employees.

How can a crowd based idea management software enrich the creative process?

maria-3Today’s idea management tools allow a lot of people to share ideas. The crowd is latterly building a genius brain with a lot of knowledge. Some people know the market or the customers. Other people know part of the solution or are able to see the combination of the solutions.

The creative process is enriched if a divergent thinking person gets in contact with a lot of knowledge, customers and ideas of others. It is giving creative people very helpful things they need to be able to do better. A lot of the creative process happens offline but the online tool helps to let people communicate and share their knowledge, their visions and feedback.

Idea management software does not replace offline activities and creativity methods. But involving a lot of people to share knowledge and ideas quickly and easily empowers both the innovation processes and your
innovation team.


  • Combine the expertise of many stakeholders with with different skills & perspectives.
  • Involve your customers and other experts in the creative process.
  • Use offline methods (scouting, shadowing, design thinking) and online solutions in combination.
  • Collect knowledge and create visual summaries available for everybody.
  • Use a crowd to understand the problem and the need too – not only for ideation.
  • Ask the crowd if they like the solution and what could be better.
  • Do not underestimate the value of connecting people.
  • Don’t go with the first idea. Guide people to combine and improve ideas.
  • Find “intrapreneurs” to drive the projects and support them in every way.

With a Masters degree in Engineering from Zurich ETH, Maria  is a specialist in product development and innovation management. Since 2011 she has operated as Innovation Manager of Koina GmbH which is based in Switzerland and offers international consulting services. 

 Contact Qmarkets to consult with our experts and discover how your enterprise can innovate and transform ideas into results!

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