Inspiration, innovation, or creativity?

This colourful zebra was featured in an ad for Beauti-Tone paint in a promotional magazine delivered to our house recently.  Its tagline was “Paint for the creative and curious…”.  I love this picture.  It inspired me.  It led me to conjure up a few story lines for children’s stories.  I thought about how it might be fun to try to make a paper mache zebra and paint it with coloured stripes to see what my 3 year-old, animal-specialist grandson would say. In other words, this image stimulated my creativity.  I thought about whether it was innovative as well.  Probably not, it’s still a zebra, although different from other zebras – an  out-of-the-box-thinking zebra.  But this zebra is the result of making changes to something already established, just like the innovative Dyson vacuum cleaner.  Surely its change of design is an innovation?

Where am I going with this, you ask?  I have been interacting with the blogosphere for 2 months now.  In perusing the blogosphere by searching various tags and categories, I have been intrigued by the divergent uses of the categories “inspiration”, “innovation”, and “creativity”.  “Inspiration” tends to be favoured by blog postings with a religious or spiritual topic; “innovation” tends towards postings with a business focus; and, “creativity” gravitates towards postings with an artistic theme.

This discovery surprised me.  In my experience, these categories are very much interconnected.  Innovators aren’t just people in business.  The reason we encourage innovation as much as we do in economic development is because it is important for moving beyond the status quo: for encouraging new product development and for improving ways of doing business.  But innovation is equally important in finding new, improved ways to teach your class.  Innovation is critical to developing new health therapies.  Innovation is central to new directions in art and music.  And, of course, innovation is vital to successful research and development.

Ever since she has been old enough to sit at a table and hold a crayon or pencil, my 6 year-old granddaughter has been teaching me anew about creativity and innovation.  She doesn’t need to wait for inspiration before she starts a new art project; she seems to be permanently infused with inspiration.  She never needs to ask someone, “What should I make?”  She always seems to know what she wants to create next, and she can be productive all day!  She happily tries new techniques that pop into her head, finding materials from indoors and outdoors to incorporate in her creations.

Pencil drawing, 2011

Oil on canvas, 2011

Oil on canvas, 2011

My students, over the 30 years that I taught computer science, exhibited creativity and innovation in many of the challenges put to them as they learned how to harness the continually changing technology.  It could come through a particularly original way of writing a program, a unique approach to interface design, a novel technology-based business solution, or an idea for an original new video game.  In all aspects of designing and implementing solid IT solutions, creativity and innovation play an important role.  My former students are an inspiration!

Now that I have come to realize that these three words have diverse interpretations in the blogosphere, I’m going to be more creative with my tags.  I think I’ll use all three tags each time, just to be sure!

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11 Responses to Inspiration, innovation, or creativity?

  1. jane tims says:

    Hi. I love the ‘pencil drawing, 2011’ … It has so much movement in it… your granddaughter is very lucky to have a grandmother who inspires creativity and shows her that there are many facets to a life well-lived! Jane

  2. PS – Your granddaughter’s art work is priceless…thanks for sharing…hopefully these will be proudly displayed in your home for future generations to enjoy.

    Be encouraged!

  3. Hi Jane,

    This post goes a long way in clarifying your recent comments on my post. One of the principles I discuss with small business owners is creating markets where none have ever existed. There is usually a great deal of silence from them as I probe and search for avenues to illustrate where I am trying to lead them. Your concept of inspiration, innovation, and creativity are great tools to enlarge our thinking. Thanks for the post…and following mine…keep those comments coming.

    Be encouraged!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Another interesting topic, creating new markets. One of the points usually made early in strategic planning sessions is that the value in developing a mission statement (a bone of contention and stumbling block if ever there was one) is to encourage people to re-evaluate what the goals (read target markets) of their company really are. In Canadian lit, one of the examples (this is dating me) used to be Canadian Pacific, when someone at the top made the leap from thinking of the company as being in the railroad business to being in the travel business (hence from railroads to railroads, airlines, hotels, travel packages, etc.). Making this kind of leap about your own company isn’t easy. Another challenge in your business is the same that we have in the IT business when trying to help companies utilize technology to its fullest potential in making their business more successful – vocabulary. Each industry/government sector is likely to have its own vocabulary (not to mention IT-speak), so finding ways to ensure the two parties are on the same page is really important. It isn’t hard to end up talking at cross-purposes and not even know it.

      We can continue to enjoy each other’s posts!

  4. Emilia says:

    Interesting the use of these 3 words…this just came as I have been thinking about you a lot! Why you ask? Well this time not because you are a good friend, which you are, but because I have been reading ” A Journey” by Tony Blair and thinking, how could Canada create a “New Liberal” as Blair and his group created a “New Labour”? …see the relation??? He certainly had to use “inspiration” which he got from 4 of his mate students, while still at Oxford, 2 australians and indian and a ugandian, “innovation” by having long discussions with his close group to figure out what would work for the 21st century and “creativity” to be able to implement the new ideas and changing clause 45 without being smothered by the union leadership; of course he needed as well an enormous dosage of “determination” !
    Maybe in the young generation there is a “Blair” germinating somewhere…in Canada!
    And…going back to kids, I have a grand-niece not quite 6 yet , that seems to react like your grand-daughter, the things she does and says come out of nowhere and what others might think is irrelevant to her. Since she was 2 I`ve been taking to her little jars of paint with either animals, flowers or whatever for her to reproduce and if she would see in the paper I gave her a black and whit zebra, she certainly would do a colored one..maybe these are the kids that will easily adjust to our very fast paced changing world, good for them!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Wow, great comments, Emilia. Would you like to be a guest blogger on my blog sometime?! Just let me know. Obviously I need to read Blair’s book. He is a remarkably bright, articulate, charismatic, and savvy politician, like Clinton. There aren’t many like him. It sounds like it must be a good read as well. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and insights. Obviously we are both hoping for some signs that the world will start turning in some positive directions before long.

      Meanwhile, enjoy the sun! We thought of you both as we watched the tennis last week – never caught sight of you, though we kept looking.

      • Emilia says:

        I don`t know what a “guest blogger” does???? Obviously I`m not totally with the times yet…

        • Jane Fritz says:

          If you have a topic you’d like to write about, I could introduce you as a guest blogger and post for you. It could be practice for starting your own blog!! Happy Easter, Emilia.

  5. adamfritz says:

    Innovation is used in the public service a lot (because there seems to be this strange belief that using business speak makes you better or look smarter, which is sad), but it is the creative and innovative aspects of the public service that always attract me. It is very unfortunate that it is a work environment that tends to smother people’s creative sides, as I know so many amazing public servants that could blow your mind if they were inspired to use their creativity instead of forced to “innovate” by pretending to be in the private sector. One reason your granddaughter is so amazing at what she does is because she is just being herself rather than always thinking what others tell her she is supposed to be. Not so simple when you grow up, but still very possible.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Excellent points all around. Maybe the best approach is to secretly reward creative and innovative efforts and to encourage stealth creativity. The same criticism is leveled at the school system (and has been for decades), that creative thinking is smothered at school. I think this is partly true, but I also think that many people, including many children, are intimidated by being asked to come up with their own solution to something, even if it is to draw their own picture. They are more comfortable being told what is expected. Education goes in cycles between trying to have children think for themselves (sometimes before having been given the tools to allow them to do so successfully) and giving them so many rules to follow to accomplish a task that the conformity is mind-numbing. I think you’d find that, in more companies than not, people working in the private sector have the same observations to make about their work environments that you make about the public sector. What I find most amazing about my granddaughter’s approach is it hasn’t crossed her mind to worry about what someone else thinks. That is, sadly, fairly rare, even at her age.

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