Strategy & Execution

Creativity Leading to Innovation

By Scott Addis, CEO

On December 17, 1903, a man walked into a restaurant in Norfolk, Virginia to announce that “there are two loony Yankees down at Kitty Hawk trying to learn to fly.” Little did this man realize that these curious pair of innovators would achieve the first powered, sustained and controlled flight of an airplane. Orville and Wilbur Wright would survive this flight and many others.

The credit card was introduced in the 1920’s for automobile owners to make the purchase of gasoline easy and efficient. As company’s like American Express and Diners Club made it possible to purchase meals, lodging and merchandise with the swipe of plastic, the concept of the credit card took off.

In 1968, a scientist named Spencer Silver was researching ways to make 3M’s adhesive tape stronger. He failed to meet his objective, yet discovered something new – an adhesive strong enough to stick on many surfaces but could easily be removed and reused. In 1977, Post-It-Notes hit the market. The concept did not catch on immediately as consumers could not imagine why they would need such a product. It was not until 3M decided to distribute free samples that people understood and appreciated the versatility of the little sticky notes. Once this happened, the consumers’ imagination ran wild.

What do the Wright Brothers, the credit card and Post-It-Notes have in common? Creativity leading to innovation.

Creativity is the act of producing new ideas, approaches or actions while innovation is the process of putting an idea into action. Creativity is always the starting point for innovation.

People who have a gift for creative innovations tend to differ from others in three ways:

  1. Expertise. Specialized technical knowledge in a particular discipline.
  2. Creative thinking skills. Flexibility and imagination as relates problem solving.
  3. Intrinsic motivation.

Your ability to “think outside the box” is best supported in a flexible, open, nurturing environment. Creative people require this kind of environment to invent, imagine, problem solve and create fresh ideas and concepts. Creative ideas emerge when preconceived assumptions are discarded and attempts at new methods, which seem odd or unthinkable to others, are explored.

Commoditization is a huge issue for the insurance and risk management profession. It is evidence by ferocious price competition, leading to lower prices, margins and profits for agents, brokers and carriers. Unless you offer something unique or different, price will win every time. In today’s fast paced, turbulent marketplace, it is critical that you understand the importance of imagination, originality, diversity of perspectives and fresh ideas.

Innovation is the successful introduction of a new thing or method or a new way to look at an “old” thing. It involves acting on creative ideas to make a specific and tangible difference in the domain in which the innovation occurs. While creativity implies coming up with new ideas, innovation is bringing these ideas to life.

Innovation is the life blood of your business. Without it, there is stagnation. With it, there is energy, excitement, differentiation, value creation, passion and purpose. Innovation is a dynamic process of continually considering alternative means of delivering products and services, improving customer experiences and opening new markets. Innovation is the single most essential element to aggressive top line growth and bottom line results. Organic growth, profitability and agency value are dependent upon innovation.

Learn more about the author, Scott Addis.

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