Starting a new company takes a great deal of marketing skill, analytical acumen, and business sense. These are empirical and interpersonal attributes that can be developed in a near scientific fashion. They do not, however, tell the whole story. Entrepreneurship is an inherently creative endeavor, and the most successful business leaders typically have the ability to think outside of the box when developing strategy, products, and solutions. The development of unique products and solutions is the key to creating a business with a long-lasting impact on the market. Unique products and solutions are borne out of creative, innovative, or inventive thinking as much as they are borne out of statistical analysis or shrewd product management. Creativity, innovation, and invention are crucial building blocks in the development of a successful start-up business. While they may appear to be very similar concepts at first glance, there is actually a great deal of difference between them when applied to business. It is worth distinguishing between these concepts in order to interrogate their impact on entrepreneurial success.
Not every entrepreneur has all of these qualities – most people choose to focus on just one. Every business leader, however, should be aware of their importance. This knowledge can help an entrepreneur out in more ways than one. As well as allowing them to develop their own skillset, it allows them to staff their business in the most effective and broadly creative way. This is a quick guide to creativity, innovation, and invention for budding entrepreneurs.
Creativity has a huge role to play in entrepreneurial success. Creativity contributes towards actualization, the identification of solutions, and the development of new products through innovation and invention. Creativity in business is not so different from creativity in art. It is a natural human reaction to the world around us. In order to understand or change our environment, we must observe elements, seek new perspectives, and embrace the complexity of the world. To understand creativity in entrepreneurship, it is worth examining the two main ways of thinking that entrepreneurs utilize.
Linear thinking involves logical, step-by-step processes. When balancing expenditure and income, for instance, an entrepreneur will use a linear thinking process to correctly make calculations. This kind of thinking is crucial but does not aid in creativity.
Lateral thinking, on the other hand, is very conducive to creativity. Lateral thinking is free and open. The term ‘lateral thinking’ was first coined by Edward De Bono in 1967. De Bono coined the term in reference to a style of creative thinking that allowed people to find solutions to complex problems that would not be achievable if they only followed completely logical and linear chains of thought. Lateral thinking involves the use of creative inspiration and distracted thought to come to conclusions. Exercises to promote lateral thinking often involve seemingly off-the-wall tasks like thinking about what the worst solution to a problem might be. Lateral thinking is all about the development of new perspectives in order to come up with creative ideas.
Creativity follows this route – shirking cold logic in favor of lateral ideation. Creativity is incredibly important for entrepreneurs that want to be adaptive, innovative, and inventive.
Innovation involves adaptive thinking. It is the adaptation of existing products, services, or structures to create something better. Plenty of stimuli can drive innovation forward. Market changes, data analysis, and creative lateral thinking can all lead to innovation drives. Business courses all around the world place a huge value on teaching students about innovation within entrepreneurship. From the priciest Harvard Business School executive course to the cheapest online MBA Australia – business professors obsess over innovation for several important reasons. Innovation involves the use of previous ideas and research to inform creative adaptations. This allows shrewd entrepreneurs to constantly improve on the products, services, and company structures of their competitors.
The inspiration for innovation can come from several places:
The unexpected successes or failures of products and services in the market can drive innovative solutions.
Disparity between the ideal and the actual situation often prompts innovation as part of a drive to ‘chase the ideal’.
Observations of broken corporate or logistical structures often provoke the development of innovative new structural systems.
Industry and Market Structures
Likewise, the structure of an industry or market as a whole is never likely to be perfect. The failure of a structure or system provokes innovative adaptations from creative entrepreneurs.
Target markets are not static: they are constantly in flux. Keeping an eye on changing markets can lead entrepreneurs to innovate in order to follow or preempt them.
The market perception of products and services also changes regularly. Innovations in both product management and marketing often spring from perception changes.
New knowledge and technology frequently influences innovation. The modern electric car, for instance, is an innovation on an old idea using new technology and knowledge.
Invention is a step beyond innovation. It involves the use of creative and innovative thinking to create a product, service, or structural solution that has a completely new capacity. Invention usually impacts a market or even wider society far more than an innovative adaptation of an existing product.
Inventions do not spring out of thin air. They are the result of good lateral and linear thinking processes, collaboration, and research. They need to make sense for the paradigm of consumption prevalent in contemporary culture. Entrepreneurs and inventors are often viewed by the public as being one and the same – but not every inventor is an entrepreneur, and not every entrepreneur is an inventor.
The process of invention is almost impossible to codify: it simply does not follow a uniform path. Invention springs from creativity and innovation. Entrepreneurs use their inventive skills to come up with truly novel concepts. The rate of failure for completely new ideas is extremely high – but the rewards for developing something completely new can outstrip this risk.