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SKP’s Product Dev Master Class #02: Creativity and Innovation

[Sumith Puri has 16y 04m of Experience and is at a Principal Software Level in the Software Industry. An Ex-Yahoo, Symantec, Huawei, Oracle*, OpenText*, Finastra* (*Original Product Firms Acquired by these Companies). His Deep Rooted Expertise in Product Development, Technology, Java/Java EE Architecture and Development, Programming, Software Engineering is Shared via this Series of Articles. Please Note that the Images, Videos, Artwork, and Quotes are the Sole Property  of the Copyright Owner and Used Here for Non-Commercial Demonstration Purposes]

Innovation

There are various approaches to define Innovation. Innovation can have various or different meanings to various or different people. Since there are so many definitions for Innovation — As a student, I present the top 10 along with the sources or individuals who defined them. You may find individuals and sources from all walks of life providing their own perspective or a definition of Innovation itself. The remaining for you to find from the Internet as a TODO through your own efforts.

1. Innovation is “The creation of new products and/or services.” [Investor Words]

2. Innovation “Lowers the costs and/or increases the benefits of a task.” [Yost]

3. Innovation is “A patentable solution (external verified uniqueness) with a differentiated business model that changes the basis of business for that specific industry sector.” [Ray Meads]

4. Innovation is “To dare to challenge mainstream thinking and behavior pattern.” [Lars Christensen]

5. Innovation is “The practical translation of ideas into new or improved products, services, processes, systems or social interactions.” [The University of Melbourne]

6. Innovation Tournaments: “A new match between a need and a solution.” [Christian Terwiesch and Karl T. Ulrich]

7. Innovation is then “Simply new technology, i.e. the systematic application of (new) knowledge to (new) resources to produce (new) goods or (new) services.” [Maciej Soltynski]

8. Innovation is “The successful exploitation of new ideas.” [Ber]

9. Innovation is “The creation of something that improves the way we live our lives.” [Barack Obama]

That one definition that is accepted by most: Innovation is a) something fresh (new, original, or improved) b) that creates value

It is important we also quote from Wikipedia: 

Innovation is defined simply as a “new idea, device, or method.

However, innovation is often also viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more-effective products, processes, services, technologies, or business models that are readily available to markets, governments, and society. The term “Innovation” can be defined as something original and more effective and, as a consequence, new, that “breaks into” the market or society. It is related to, but not the same as, invention.

Creativity

Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value, more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.” [Sir Ken Robinson]

Wikipedia provides the following definition:

Creativity is a Phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a literary work, or a painting).

Creativity and Innovation

It is very important that one is able to appreciate the difference between Creativity and Innovation before getting ahead with further topics. 

Value + Creativity + Execution = Innovation

Something new is not enough for the definition of innovation. There are plenty of cases where something new has no new value ( a new color of a product or a new chemical produced that does nothing). Sometimes, the value creation results because the item is simply useful to us. We can create a lot of fresh or new things that are of no use and no value. It must create value to be innovative. Also note that the “something” could be a process, product, or service and can start as small as your ideas and thoughts in your brain. In that case, it might just be innovative thinking.

This piece from Business Inside Australia is apt in putting the right thought process across in an Organizational or Corporate Context, including Software Product Companies.

[The main difference between creativity and innovation is the focus. Creativity is about unleashing the potential of the mind to conceive new ideas. Those concepts could manifest themselves in any number of ways, but most often, they become something we can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. However, creative ideas can also be thought experiments within one person’s mind. Creativity is subjective, making it hard to measure, as our creative friends assert. Innovation, on the other hand, is completely measurable. Innovation is about introducing change into relatively stable systems. It’s also concerned with the work required to make an idea viable. By identifying an unrecognized and unmet need, an organisation can use innovation to apply its creative resources to design an appropriate solution and reap a return on its investment. Organisations often chase Creativity, but what they really need to pursue is Innovation. Theodore Levitt puts it best: “What is often lacking is not creativity in the idea-creating sense but innovation in the action-producing sense, i.e. putting ideas to work.”]

I will leave you with my personal favorite Quote:

Creativity is the Seed, Innovation is the Fruit.

Barriers to Creativity

Functional Fixedness

The inability to use an object for something that it is actually meant for leads to Functional Fixedness. When one understands that a specific thing can be done only in a given way or that an object can only be used for what it was actually intended for, it leads to Functional Fixedness.

Practical Mindedness

Some individuals have the habit of wanting to execute the idea as quickly as it would have occurred to them. This would stifle creativity. It would be in our best interest, most times, that we let the idea mature by asking further and probing questions to ourselves. This may lead to a discovery that no one could ever achieve before.

Fear of Ridicule

This is true, especially for Organizations. If an Organization (or Individual) is not able to take risks then they will usually be working at their sub-optimal potential. It may happen that there is success sometimes and the other times, they may fail. Often, the learning potential from failure is far greater than from success.

Resource Myopia

Resource Myopia is usually a short-sightedness where the individual see things as they are, rather than how they may be. We are usually unaware of our own strengths or of close our eyes to the resources that are actually at our disposal.

Over Specialization

If an individual is over-specialized, he may be stuck with thoughts that are tried and tested. He may not be able to cross-pollinate or apply thoughts from across diverse fields or spectrums.

Vertical Thinking

Vertical Thinking requires one to solve problems through a sequential approach. Vertical Thinking is the opposite of Lateral Thinking. It requires one to solve problems where creative and multi-directional thought processes are considered insensible.

Habit Transfer

The transfer of habit from one activity to another allows for premature judgment of various attributes in a situation. The habit transfer may be both positive or negative transfer.

The above are different (though each of them will fit into one of the below) from the “Blocks to Creative Problem Solving or Block to Creativity” than can be classified as:

  • Habitual
  • Perceptual
  • Cultural
  • Emotional

Conducive to Creativity

Then there are factors that are conducive or ones that promote “Creativity” or “Creative Problem Solving”. These are self-explanatory with a focus on People, Processes, and Product:

01. Self Motivation: Individuals that are Self Motivated will promote Creativity.

02. Committed: Individuals Committed to finding the most Creative Solution.

03. Willingness: Willingness of the Individual to go the extra mile supports Creativity.

04. Quest for Success: Quest for Success allows Creativity to thrive.

05. Dissatisfaction: Dissatisfaction until the Most Creative Solution is Achieved.

06. Understand: Understanding and Being Open encourages Creativity.

07. Ego Blocks: Accept Reality, Adaptability, Sense of Adequacy.

08. Fluency: Produce a large number of Similar Ideas.

09. Flexibility: Open-Minded and Adaptive Problem Solving Approach.

10. Problem Sensitivity: Being Aware that a Problem Exists.

11. Constructive Discontent: Agreeing that Current Solutions are not most Optimal.

12. Permissive Atmosphere: Processes should allow Creative Thinking.

13. Originality: Aware of Value or Creativeness of an Idea.

Stairway to Creativity [5 Stage Process]

FIG. 04: THE FIVE STAGES OF CREATIVITY

Inception: The hardest task in the creative process is not to come out with solutions, but to understand the problem completely, that is at hand. This will allow us to break down the problem into components and also question conventional approaches to solving the same or same class or problems. This also involves creating the Brief or the Scope of the Task. [Understand the Task at Hand]
Incubation: Conscious Thought Process and the Unconscious Modes of Thinking both play a vital role in achieving the most Creative solution. The unconscious mode of thinking (Intuition) allows the cognitive machinery to use knowledge, past experiences, and emotions to formulate and refine ideas. [Put the Task out of Your Immediate Attention]

Illumination: There is no single way to approach Creativity, but most creative people agree that there is an urge to change their mental state at such a point. There is a push to change some surrounding states, fundamentally to find focus and enhance the brain’s cognitive reception of intuited notions. Most experienced creatives will become aware that a new idea is arrived at or is about to be arrived out. This may also be through emotional triggers or feelings that allow them to recognize the potential of the current direction. [Inspiration is Revealed in the Form of Intuited Notion]


Realization: The thoughts that emerged during Illumination are mostly raw in that they are fleeting thoughts and mostly have no structure or context to them. Transforming Imagination into Tangible Form and leaving what is Pertinent to create Finite Form that can be put into Action or bought to Life. [Give Your Idea Context and Structure]


Verification: Testing Ideas against the Actual Outcomes. By Exposing the Idea to further Analysis and Synthesis, we are able to judge its validity and judge the result. Ideas must agree to the original reasons of their origin and motivations behind their creation. If the idea does not sufficiently answer the Brief, take what is appropriate — discard the obscure and go to stage one (Inception) and begin again.


Check your Innovation Quotient #02: Can you make 4 Equilateral Triangles with 6 Matchsticks? In how many Different Ways can you Achieve This?

Greatest Innovators #02: Michael Faraday: Michael Faraday — From Electricity to Power Generation

Best Quotes on Innovation, Education, and Creativity

Quote from Thomas Edison

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