Creativity and Innovation Defined as a Key Skill


I have been very concerned about the future of technological work. As part of my doctoral research, I wanted to figure out where the future is going. This post will focus on creativity and innovation defined.

We have entered a creative economy that is very focused on ideas and innovation. I have suggested in the past that we are entering a new renaissance. Today, left and right-brain thinkers are what is needed. Form and function are important. One is not important over another. A good example is the Apple iPhone and iPad.

What are the implications of this thinking? Traditional disciplines and educational models are quickly becoming commodities. The world is about how to generate ideas and bring them quickly to market. Innovation is the key to the future. To me, this means we need to educate and train new technological workers in a different way with creativity and innovation as important goals in education. This is not a focus in most programs.

Slowly but surely, the Hollywood model of creating movies is coming to the technological workforce. Everyone will be a consultant in the future. The Hollywood model is about bringing the talent together to create a movie and then the team is disbanded at the end. This is increasingly happening in technology.

There are two kinds of companies…you have the big companies and the small companies. The employees in a big company have a corporate entity to be able to move between projects. Employees are somewhat isolated from the risk that small companies The small companies live on a project-by-project basis and may have multiple customers at one time.

Between the move to the Creative Economy and the change in the employment contract, technological professionals need to stay on their toes and stay current.

What is innvotion?

I have my own definition of innovation that has been informed by Phil McKinney of and Sir Ken Robinson, author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.

in * no * va * tion [in-uh-vey-shuhn]
– noun
1. the process of taking an original idea that has a value from conception to adoption.

Innovation is about ideas that have value. It is also about being able to take it from an idea to be used by the community at large. You can have a great idea but it does not mean you can bring it to the world who will adopt and embrace it. Remember, it can be a process and/or technology (either physical or virtual). Innovation is both social and technical. It requires both the right and left brain. It requires form and function.

What are the key innovation skills?

Since we are now in a Creative Economy where creativity and innovation is king. What are some of the skills needed for innovators? The 21st-century skills ( website is where we will begin the exploration of skill sets in creativity and innovation. These lists are useful to begin a dialogue and not an end in itself. I say this because someone will want to take these skills and create a curriculum based on traditional teaching methods which will not work for these kinds of behavioral skills. You must learn from experience and not from listening to lectures and taking tests.

So, from Partnership for 21st Century Skills web site –

\”Creativity and Innovation

* Demonstrating originality and inventiveness in work
* Developing, implementing, and communicating new ideas to others
* Being open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives
* Acting on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the domain in which the innovation occurs\”

If you look at these points, you will see most of them is behavioral in nature. The key aspect of innovation is being able to take ideas from conception to production whether it is a physical product or a software product or a process. I believe that you can apply innovation to people, processes, and technology.

The invention is different from innovation. Just because you invent something does not make you an innovator. An example of this is the operating system. Bill Gates did not invent DOS but he was able to innovate to bring DOS to the masses. This is something to keep in the back of your mind.

I have done a little brainstorming on innovation and created a top-level mind map of my thinking around innovation. We will explore each area of the map in future blog entries. I call this the 6 Cs – collaboration, communication, community, creativity, curiosity, and culture. Innovation is a fully holistic process and not just about technology. It is about people, processes, and technology. Each of the Cs brings innovation to being not just a personal process but also a collaborative one. It requires someone with good communication skills, someone to be creative, and someone with curiosity. Someone willing to ask questions and be curious. A big part of innovation is about asking the right questions. Innovation is also about community. You can have the greatest idea in the world but it will never be successful because the community does not adopt it. As part of the community, you need to understand the culture of the targeted community.


Defining Creativity

We will explore creativity skills. Creativity is the process of imagining and generating new ideas that have value.

I have included a mind map for creativity. You will see the following skills:

* Imagination

To be creative, you need to have a good imagination.

* New Lens

To be creative, you need to be able to look at this in a different lens. This means you need to be able to look at things in a different way.

* Open-Mindedness

To be creative, you need to have an open mind to new ideas and possibilities. We have a lot of people in this world that closes their mind to new ideas. They are so fixated on the past that they can not imagine the future.

* New Possibilities

To be creative, you need to be able to generate new possibilities/ideas that have value. The key to this statement is \”value\”. You can have ideas but if they are not valuable then the ideas will never get traction.

* Risk Taking

To be creative, you need to not be afraid of failure. You need to be able to understand that not all possibilities and/or ideas will be of value which means they are a good chance you will fail with your ideas. We are so focused on the right answer in schools today that no one is willing to take a risk and fail. I find that failing is just as good a learning experience as a success. You learn a lot. This takes someone who has the self-confidence to fail and move on. This means that you need to be able to learn and unlearn very quickly.

* Flexible

To be creative, you need to be flexible. Change is a constant in today\’s business world so you will be faced with opportunities and you need to be willing to be flexible. Just because you have a good idea does not mean you become arrogant over it and hold it close to the vest. It requires openness and flexibility to go with the punches.


Defining Curiousity

We will explore curiosity today as a skill of innovation. To be curious, you need

* to be inquisitive

The ability to ask questions and use Socratic questioning in an area of interest.

* to explore

The ability and eagerness to explore a topic in detail. This includes researching and playing with ideas/possibilities.

* to investigate

As part of exploration, you need to investigate. You almost need to be an investigative reporter trying to get the details you need in the area of interest.

* to learn

You need to be eager to learn more about an area of interest and get into that area in depth. You must go beyond the surface understanding of a topic. You must do a deep dive and get into depth. You must learn as much as you can.

* to experiment

You need to be willing to experiment with new possibilities and ideas to see they are of value or not. If the experiment is successful, then you move the idea forward. If not, you need to be willing to let it go.


Defining Community and Culture

Next, we will investigate community and culture. I will treat them together because they really belong together.

A community is a group of people who share a concern, dialogue, work, and learn together. A special kind of community that I will blog about is a Community of Practice. We all belong to communities of practice and we all have our own special identities in each of these communities. Identity is an important concept in a community. From newbies to old-timers, each member of a community lends their expertise. Practice is always social in nature and it is a domain of expertise. Communities have histories, artifacts, and activities that allow members to participate. Identity, activities, and practice are the key terms in the community language.

The last term of importance is culture. Communities develop a culture over time. A culture has customs, tools, values, beliefs, practices, and behaviors. Members must conform to the culture to fit in. Member either buy into the culture or do not participate in it.

In Innovation, communities and cultures are important concepts for you to master. You can not bring an idea from conception to adoption without understanding the community and culture that you are trying to introduce the innovation into. You must understand these concepts to figure out how to get members to adopt an innovation. Some innovations can cause a community to transform. Healthy communities do transform themselves over time.


Defining Communication and Collaboration

The last two key skills in innovation are communication and collaboration. Communication can be broken down into listening, dialogue, and discussion. You need to be able to listen which can be a hard skill to master for some. Dialogue is about an open-ended conversation. Discussion is about communication that leads to a decision. You need to master both. Dialogue does require listening along with participating. Collaboration is about working with two or more people towards a common goal. Teamwork is a part of the ability to collaborate.



The creative age has spawned a requirement for a new skill in creativity and innovation. We need to have students learn creativity and innovation to be successful in today\’s technological world. With automation and AI starting to take hold these skills become more and more important in our new age.

Dr. M

Dr. M

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