Tag Archives: invention

Become an Innovator by Embracing Your Gifts

doug-road(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

You can’t be anyone you want to be.

To become your most powerful, you have to fully become WHO YOU ARE.

(Umar Haque posted a similar sentiment on the Harvard Business Review blog in 2011.)

“Don’t want to be the best in the world at what you do. Be the only one who does what you do.” — Jerry Garcia

This is not always easy. People are changing. Situations are changing. Environments are changing – constantly, and without fail. And since we have to deal with so many messages from the outside world about who and what it thinks we should be — and become — it should not be surprising during the times when it feels like a struggle. Plus, what if WHO YOU ARE challenges the mainstream notion of what’s right or good? This makes fully becoming WHO YOU ARE even more frightening. 

But the more I reflect on it, the more I think that embracing your unique gifts is the key to becoming an innovator. When you find or create a safe space in which can can take risks to uncover and unleash who you are, you creative potential blazes. But sometimes those safe spaces are hard to come by… so what are we going to do about it?

The Role of Creativity in Innovation

(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

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.

What is Innovation?

invention -> Innovation -> Technology Transfer -> Diffusion of Innovations

Innovation is the practice of making new concepts and ideas relevant and useful to individuals and communities of people.

This contrasts with the process of invention, through which new ideas are generated while the linkages between these new ideas and existing ideas are simultaneously uncovered. Innovation defines the context of use, while invention does not. The products of innovation are fundamentally ideas, characterized by novelty, utility and relevance. However, the distinctive feature of innovation is that these ideas, once connected with a particular context of use, at once capture the potential to add value to systems, people, processes and even other ideas.

Although new mechanisms for value creation can be unlocked through the innovation process, value is created when new products, services and processes are designed, through the integration of knowledge and the understanding of the capabilities of the organization that is poised to deliver that value.

As a result, innovation is critically dependent not only on the people doing the innovating, but also on the social networks of people connected to those innovators, whose influences inform and impact the process of discovery. (Radziwill & DuPlain, 2008)

What’s the bottom line? Innovation does not exist without people who have needs, and who are somehow connected to one another!


Radziwill, N. M., and R.F. DuPlain, 2008: A Model for Business Innovation in the Web 2.0 World. Chapter in Web 2.0 Business Models, IGI Global Publishing. Available from Amazon.