Creativity vs Innovation

I was recently caught off guard when I came across the quote below, “Creativity is thinking up new things.  Innovation is doing new things.” by Theodore Levitt. I’ve been doing an extensive amount of reading recently about Innovation and Creativity and this simple, yet realistic variation never dawned on me.  

For the longest time, I have struggled with Sir Ken Robinson’s thoughts that schools needed to integrate more creativity into their lessons.  Perhaps it was my own Fine Arts background, or the fact that I’ve always worked in a school district that valued the Fine Arts that persuaded me that it was already present. When I first read George Couros’ Innovators Mindset, I once again struggled.  I saw the inherent value immediately, but wasn’t sure about how to manage the information I had received.  That is, until I read Katie Martin’s Learner Centered Innovation.

Most teachers, when presented with all the newest trends in behavioral management and learner-centered instruction become easily overwhelmed with the terms and how to apply them. In order to marry the concepts of creativity and innovation in the classroom, you have to be willing to continually question yourself.  This self-reflection is invaluable. When your students are struggling with the contextual concepts you are teaching, ask yourself “Is it the concepts or how the students are learning it?” This simple questions can lead you to so many doors of understanding.

You see, when it is the concepts, it’s just like lexile reading levels.  Sometimes the information has made too big of a jump for the students to logically follow.  This helps us stop, go back, and make stronger connections to the information that reinforces those dendrites and neurons.  If you’ve ever studied brain-based learning, you know that the neuron is the particle of information that is stored in our brains, but in order to access it, we need multiple dendrites to hold it in place.  So the more connections we make, the easier the students can recall information.

If the struggle is in how students are learning, ask yourself again, “Have I properly scaffolded the ability to accept failure as a learning process and move on?”  The easiest parable to model this is the study where an art class was split into two halves. One half was asked to create the most perfect clay bowl. The second half was asked to make as many clay bowls as possible within the same amount of time.  At the end of the creation period (several days), the students who had focused on quantity actually had the highest quality. They had seen their mistakes, failed quickly and then failed often enough to correct their techniques.


This mirrors the struggle that is perceived between creativity and innovation.  When we focus on creativity, we are focusing on the ability to think in new avenues.  The problem lies in that when we just focus on thinking, we are not refining how we can accomplish what we have thought up.  In other words, we are dealing with “perfect world scenarios.” However, when we innovate, we struggle constantly, trying to fail forward.  The quantity over quality argument becomes moot. When we focus on the “Fail quickly, Fail often, and Fail forward,” the quality concerns take care of themselves.  The most creative design is worthless if it cannot be implemented effectively.  So, the question becomes, how do you model innovation in your classroom?


Couros, George (2015). The Innovator’s Mindset.  Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.

Martin, Katie (2018). Learner Centered Innovation. IMPress Books.

Robinson, Ken (2011). Out of Our Minds; Learning to be Creative. Capstone Publishing Ltd.

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