The Difference Between Creativity and Innovation

In my Edgy Librarian webinar on Culture Shift in Libraries, I asked the question “Does it feel like, all of a sudden, everyone is talking about the need to be creative and innovative?”  Most of the people on the webinar responded “yes.”  Much of the webinar covered why this is so, and what to do about it.  What I didn’t get a chance to do was really get into what it means to be creative and innovative.

One definition for creativity often used by researchers is “the generation of novel and useful ideas.”  A definition for innovation is “the successful implementation of creative ideas within an organization.”

It’s important to understand how these are different because you may be strong at fostering creative ideas but weak in implementation. Or weak in idea generation though you have the desire and means to implement something cool. (Do people still say “cool?”)  To me the benefit is in understanding that there are phases which involve different skills and organizational structures.  Coming up with the “cool” idea is often the easy part and is too often generated by a select few. That’s the topic of another blog post. 😉

When working on your next innovation, keep in mind that the setting, rules and behaviors required for generating creative ideas is different from the effort to prioritize and decide what to do.  When you get to the “how“ phase, there will likely be a need for more creative thinking.  The final piece is to manage the change process that incorporates the innovation into daily work flow.  In the ideal organizational culture, people at all levels will have been involved, or at least informed, along the way and will have learned to see change as opportunity.

We already have all of the raw materials in both staff and resources to supply innovations in the area of connection to learning, resources and community.  With changes to our organizational structures to promote creativity and experimentation and a little more practice reframing change from challenge to opportunity, we’ll be set.

What Does it Mean to Have an Organizational Culture of “Yes”

In my last blog post, I asked the question  “What would happen if your organizational culture was one of “yes”?  I imagined that some people reading the post thought something like “She’s crazy!  If we say “yes” to anything more, we’ll explode.”  Indeed, libraries already do so many things for so many people that adding more, probably won’t work.  I’d like to clarify what I mean by creating a culture of “yes.”

When answering a yes or no question such as, “Would you like to go to the beach?”  a “yes” answer expresses affirmation.  People like to hear “yes.” It feels better (a clue as to the value of “yes” in bringing people together).

When talking about creating an organizational culture of “yes”, it’s important to understand that “yes” does not necessarily mean agreement. It means “I hear you and accept your offer and will look for the possibilities” as opposed to “here are all the reasons your crazy, misguided idea won’t work.”

A culture of “yes” is one where people are committed to listening for possibilities, to putting their internal critic on hold, and to appreciating all contributions.

In a culture of “yes”, people feel safe to suggest, to give feedback and to experiment because they know people will listen for what’s good and useful.

In a culture of “yes”, people will learn that it’s safe to ask for clarification when they don’t understand.  They will learn that “mistakes” should be mined for information instead of being grounds for punishment.

Once you build this kind of trust in your organization, all staff will feel empowered to help find solutions and create new services.  So, consider starting to create a culture of “yes” in your organization because with everything the libraries are trying to provide these days, we need all the yessing we can get!