Understanding innovation & creativity

Creativity and innovation, while closely linked as part of a creation process, are not the same. Creativity is not measurable, it is subjective, while innovation, at its most basic level meaning "new", is measurable in the sense that an innovation is the creation of something new, whether it be a new product, idea or method.

Creativity and innovation contribute to an enterprise’s growth and overall success by meeting unique needs in markets, differentiating businesses from competitors and evolving a brand as customers’ needs and wants evolve. Creativity and innovation play an important role in helping solopreneurs and enterprises to remain dynamic, efficient, and ahead of competitors.


Types of innovation

Radical innovation


Completely disrupts existing business and creates a new business model. Radical innovation is rare as it has similar characteristics to disruptive innovation but is different in a way that it simultaneously uses revolutionary technology and a new business model.

When Uber introduced Uber cabs, it introduced a radical change to how the taxi sector operated and created a new business model.

Sustaining innovation


Exists in the current market and instead of creating new value networks, it improves and grows the existing ones. Sustaining innovation is the opposite of disruptive innovation as it exists in the current market and instead of creating new value networks, it improves and grows the existing ones by satisfying the needs of a customer.

Sarah Coleman is a business coach and runs Business Evolution. She has developed a niche service and specialises in High Growth Business Coaching for small and medium sized enterprises.


Incremental innovation


A series of small, gradually built improvements to existing products, processes or methods to maintain competitive position over time. These small changes focus on improving the productivity and performance of the company, as well as the efficiency and user experience (UX) of the products and services. Companies can use incremental innovation to save costs and differentiate from competitors. 

Gillette razors started life with a single blade but their product has evolved, adding different features and more blades as the company has sought to better meet customer needs.


Disruptive innovation


Creates a new value network either by disrupting an existing market or creating a completely new market. Disruptive innovation refers to innovations and technologies that make expensive or sophisticated products and services accessible and more affordable to a broader market.

Netflix and other streaming services are continuing to disrupt the entertainment industry. They killed off physical video rental stores and are slowly allowing more and more customers to cut their cable subscriptions.


Although many people think that creativity is a talent, in reality it is an ability which can be learned.

“A product is creative when it is (a) novel and (b) appropriate. A novel product is original and not predictable. The bigger the concept, and the more the product stimulates further work and ideas, the more the product is creative.” (Sternberg & Lubart, Defying the Crowd),

Some creativity techniques, very useful for product and service innovation, are listed below. The list is not exhaustive and if you do not see one which you like or feel comfortable with, you can search for more options online.


  • Lateral Thinking: Also known as “thinking out of the box”. It is a deliberate, systematic way of thinking creatively that results in innovative thinking in a repeatable manner. Best for creativity “on demand” for defining and solving problems and finding new ways to do things.
  • Five Ws and One H: Good for cases where you need to comprehend the issue more precisely in order to be able to describe it properly and to find a solution. It can be used by individuals, or by teams. The questions that need to be answered are What? Why? When? Who? How? Where?
  • Brainstorming: Best for circumstances in which new ideas or new solutions to problems need to be created.
  • Brainwriting: Equivalent to brainstorming, but it is best for circumstances that need more options in less time. It is a technique at which only words are allowed.
  • Six Thinking Hats: Great for times where you need to analyse and evaluate pros and cons but be as rational and as objective as possible.

    The last 2 techniques are designed for groups and you can use them with potential clients, colleagues, friends or family. This will help you to expand your mind and get new ideas or features for your product or service.


Life coach Lauren is the founder of Women of a Certain Stage, a company that provides coaching, mentoring and corporate training on a wide range of health concerns, including the menopause. She works in a variety of ways, as an executive coach, an educator on menopause and an international speaker.


It is not possible for solopreneurs to compete on price and the range of services and products offered by large organisations. The key is to focus on innovation and to be creative in when identifying and meeting needs of a niche market.
MyVA Project number: 2020-1-SE01-KA226-VET-092491
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. 
The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
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