Confusing terms


There seem to be quite a few terms in and around creativity that are used very loosely. I think this leads to loads of misunderstandings and quite a bit of confusion.

So this is my take on the terms “Creativity”, “Idea Generation”, “Problem Solving”, “Creative Problem Solving” and “Innovation”.

Idea Generation is a subset of Creativity.

Creative Problem Solving is a subset of Problem solving.

The three main circles can overlap.

Creativity is a very wide term meaning lots of different things to different people from flower arranging to the ‘creative industries’ (whatever they are – surely all industries should be creative?). So I think the term Idea Generation is much more precise, it is the process of coming up with new ideas, it can be achieved by learning the appropriate mindset, using techniques and sometimes just by flashes of inspiration.

Problem Solving is a logical and analytical approach. Someone gives you a problem and you try to figure out how to solve it. It is not about idea generation and herein lies its major weakness. Creative Problem Solving uses some Idea Generation techniques but its focus is still on logic and analysis. The challenge with all problem solving is that the problem itself limits your thinking because the focus is on the problem.

If we spent more time at the start of things coming up with ideas then maybe we wouldn’t have to spend so much time solving problems? Think about it, how much time do you spend solving problems versus coming up with ideas?

The paradox: If you want to solve problems you need to be able to think creatively as well as logically. If you want to avoid problems you have to think creatively. But if you are trying to be creative in order to solve a problem then you are not in the creativity circle, you are in the problem solving circle. Creativity works best if there is not a goal to it so if you want to use creativity to help solve a problem then you have to put the problem aside for the moment and spend some time just playing with ideas – easier said than done.

Moving on to Innovation which I would define as creating new products, services and ways of doing things.

Innovation happens from two sources. B: The first and most obvious way is on the left hand side, using logic and analysis to come up with an innovation. (We want to increase our sales so we use ideas that other people have used.) This is by far the most used approach to innovation mainly because it is what organisations are comfortable with.

A: The real opportunity is coming up with totally new and radical stuff. I see VERY little of this happening in organisations, the paradox here is this is where the majority of earth shattering products, services and ways of doing things come could from.

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