Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

On The Value of Creativity

Creativity and innovation are often used almost interchangeably. Creatives are called innovators and innovators may be called great creatives. While these two critical values are very much related, they are strongly different. Organizational leaders must be able to identify and quantify the difference between these skills to have great success at either. To define them the same would be no different than defining movement and direction as the same. While they are dependent upon each other, they imply very different things. Direction implies thought and strategy while movement implies action and execution. Having directions hardly means you are moving. The value of direction comes with movement.

The very definition of creativity is thought. Creativity is questioning, thinking, ideas, and curiosity.  Philosopher Luc De Brabandere writes that the fertile soil for creativity and ideas is astonishment and curiosity. Without this soil, creativity will not flourish. But what is the real, concrete, deliverable value of an idea? How much value is there really in creative thought? What measurable increase in output can we derive from the input of ideas? Honestly, very little. Creativity is simply direction. We need movement to gain value, and that is where innovation comes in. Innovation is where we find concrete value, because it is the execution on ideas. While creativity is important, it has little usefulness without the ability to turn it into measurable and definable action. As business guru Gary Vaynerchuk says, “ideas are nice but execution is the game.” Or consider the words of Warby Parker Co-Founder Neil Blumenthal who said that few ideas are completely unique, it’s all about execution. Ideas are great, but execution and innovation are where the real value exists.

Creativity is critically important, and the point of the post is not to prove otherwise. Yet movement with no direction has as much value as creativity with no execution. Organizations must understand that real value will come with incredible execution. The ability to take an idea, foster it, grow it, and ultimately execute upon it is when real innovation happens. We must have creative ideas and original thought, but we also must have the ability to execute at a high level. A great contractor must be able to turn an architectural idea into reality. A pianist must be able to turn the creative notes on a page into something we can enjoy. An actor must be able to deliver the lines of script in an engaging way. In this vein, great organizations must be able to turn creative ideas into ground breaking innovation. Here are some keys to success:

1. Identify your people. Are they executors and innovators or creatives and thought leaders? Be sure to pair thought leaders with innovators. They’ll make better teams.

2. Track your ideas over time. Are they being executed effectively?

3. Teach your idea people the value project management, discipline, and execution. These are key to success.

4. Teach your “executors” the value of creativity and getting out the “the box”.

5. Always remember that the real value comes not in the idea, but the execution on the idea. If you can’t execute, you can’t add innovative value.

The value of creativity is in the execution.

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