Innovation

The Psychology of Innovation

On the practical applications of innovative ideas and the creation of value… and why the 21st century is the century of innovation

Innovation is not just creating something completely new, but creating a product that will be of value, especially commercial, economic, practical or social value. Thus creativity when associated with value and enterprise is innovation and an innovative product is “useful to others”. Innovation could lead to enterprise and commercialization as innovative products are commercially viable. Whereas an invention is creation of something new, innovation is the creation of a product or service that is valuable and useful to consumers. New and innovative products are sometimes radical and revolutionary, although there is incremental innovation that improves systems or products that already exist. Innovation helps in creation of commercial, practical or social value by implementing new ideas.

Innovation is applied invention and helps to create a new product to fill the unmet user needs in the market. An invention is a new product but could be a valued solution to a problem and only by becoming commercially, socially or practically valuable, an invention is transformed to innovation.

This discussion is based on the psychological basis of innovation and although innovation would be associated with creativity, creativity is a trait in humans and innovation is ‘what you do’. Thus innovation is a form of action that requires creativity, enterprise and radical thinking. Thus innovation being focused on creation of a product is action-oriented whereas creativity is thought-oriented. Enterprise is necessary to turn a creative idea into an innovative product that will have significant value in the short or long term. The psychological process of turning an idea into an innovation goes beyond the creative process and involves practical planning of designing and marketing the product to make it commercially viable.

Innovation involves the stages of brainstorming of a creative idea, problem solving, processing or developing it to come up with something radical and different and then developing a business model to help meet market and user needs. Creativity as a thought process is the first step of innovation. Innovation usually involves a new idea, method or product and either the art, technology or business of introducing something new. When ideas are translated to innovation, value is created and this forms the potential for business. Innovation is creation of a product with inherent value and this is done by considering what product will be of value to the user or will be successful in the market. It could be argued that even creativity is responsible for creation of products with aesthetic value or artistic value. Well, that is true but the value created by innovation is probably more objective, because innovation creates economic, commercial and social value.

The psychological processes in innovation differ from creativity as the action-oriented nature of innovation will have to be directed towards fulfilling a user or market or product need. In creativity, the only goal seems to be the creation of the product, although creative products like books can also be market directed. Innovation is specifically focused on meeting user needs, it is action-oriented, so it is based on applications or practical purposes. Whereas creativity being thought-oriented, primarily fulfills the needs of the creative artist and is directed internally, innovation is about the world and fulfills the needs of the user and market and is thus directed externally. Creativity also does not involve a focus on commercialization whereas innovation is about developing the commercial value of a product.

Creativity is the basis of art, architecture, poetry and any artistic or scientific activity for the matter. Innovation is invention with added value, is based on action and is thus more practical in its applications and tangible in its usability. Creativity and creative products are more abstract and not too well defined or tangible as far as their applications are concerned. The only application of creativity seems to be aesthetic pleasure and creativity is the basis of the aesthetic value of any product, including an innovative product. It is when creativity helps make products that are significantly useful to the market that it evolves to an innovation. Thus creativity is the foundation of all innovation, however creativity is not based on innovation. Creativity is the first step towards innovation and innovation is focused on delivering exceptional product or service to the value chain. In innovation, value is added for both user and developer.

The different components of innovation are creativity, radical thinking, business model, user needs, market, design and practical applications. Any new product will have to be well planned in terms of design and application and the business model guides the innovation to market launch and profitability. Thus the ultimate goal of creativity is providing aesthetic pleasure to the users or perceivers and the ultimate goal of innovation is meeting user needs and deriving profitability through commercialization.

Innovation could be about a radically new product or an incremental improvement, so innovation is about improvement whereas creativity is focused on originality. However the most original products are also considered as the most innovative. For example Apple Inc.’s design of iPhones and iPads are among the most original and that is why the most innovative. Thus originality is a common factor in both creativity and innovation and it is the basis of self-expression in creativity and the basis of a business model in innovation.

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Santosh is an international development specialist and author of several publications on socio economic development. Santosh is a regular contributor to online article sites on the topics of on line education, underserved peoples, scholarship and educational excellence.