The Role of Creativity in Innovation

(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of

Innovation requires creativity, and has even been described as the act of channeling creativity to produce ideas or products “that people can and wish to use,” (Vandevert, 2003) because creativity is the cognitive process that enables innovation. This topic has been extensively studied in the art and psychology literature.

Bassett-Jones (1998), examining the interrelationship between diversity, creativity, innovation and competitive advantage, defines a creative product as one that a) has novelty, b) is appropriate in the situation it was created to address, c) is public in its effect, and d) derives a perceived benefit.

According to Sternberg (2006), who reviewed 25 years of psychology research on creativity, the creative process that yields innovations is characterized by three intellectual abilities:

  • “The synthetic ability to see problems in new ways and to escape the bounds of conventional thinking,
  • Analytic ability to recognize which of one’s ideas are worth pursuing and which are not, and
  • The practical-contextual ability to know how to persuade others of – or sell other people on – the value of one’s ideas.”

This suggests that for an idea to be innovative, it must meet three criteria: it must be novel, demonstrate utility, and demonstrate relevance. Relevance implies a specific context of use for the idea, a specific time horizon for realization, and also that the new idea must be operationalized and made useful. This final point distinguishes innovation from invention.

Bassett-Jones, N. (2005). The paradox of diversity management, creativity and innovation. Creativity and Innovation Management, 14(2), 160-175.
Vandervert, L.R. (2003). Research on innovation at the beginning of the 21st century: what do we know about it? In L.V. Shavivina (Ed.), The International Handbook on Innovation. Oxford: Elsevier, pp. 1103-1112.
Sternberg, R., Pretz, J.E., & Kaufman, J.C. (2003). Types of innovations. In L.V. Shavivina (Ed.), The International Handbook on Innovation. Oxford: Elsevier, pp. 158-169.

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