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.