Let's play a game. Help yourself to a piece of pen and paper, write down as many functions of a paper clip that you can figure out. It can be anything, let the imagination runs wild.
How many functions of paper clip that one can found out? Did you know average adult can find up to 30 functions while a child can have up to 100 function. Why is this so?
Also check out this interesting poll regarding artistic freedom in relation to age [link]. Majority chosen youth and teenagers than adult and elderly. It is clear that people are more creative when they were young.
As people grow, they get more bounded by rules and regulations. As a result, human are bound to a cliche or pattern. For example in schools, higher institutes or working organizations.
Let's take the example of the paper clip. A small children might not know the function of a paper clip if one shows them the first time. As their imagination is wild, they can use that for almost anything. While for an adult, a paper clip is used just for clipping papers.
As adults grow, their thinking are getting more and more inside the box.
Creativity vs Innovation
Creativity and innovation sounds different from each other but they are quite connected in some way or another. Being creative is to do things differently, to think outside of the box, to think outside of a cliche. Being innovative means to implement an idea to generate new idea.
Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing mentioned that people and stressing on innovation but no one stresses on creativity [link]. This is quite true based on his article in the link. Why is that so? One thing, innovation drives the market. Consumer says it all. If there is no market, means any organization will not generate revenue.
Put for example, person A in Alpha Company, uses an idea to create a product to sell. That is called innovation. Putting it another way, that person can copy an idea from Beta Company and use it for their own. It is still called innovation.
But who are the ones to create those idea? This is where creativity comes into place. It takes less resources to generate an idea than to get a well established idea and use it. So to speak, innovation is more important to generate money than creativity.
Science , Technology and Engineering
As can be seen, creativity and innovation are closely related to science, technology and engineering. It takes a lot of creativity to explore in science. A good example is Einstein.
According to Professor Brian Cox, science, especially curiosity led science is underfunded [link]. It is underfund because there is no direct profit from funding science. One might satisfy a curiosity of another by explore in science but it does not generate market for the consumers. This is why stress is given on an innovation led economy, not a creativity led economy.
But imagine, if there is not science, there will be not technology. Without technology, engineers could not come up with consumer products.
Tools for Creativity
Nevertheless, creativity is important in one way or another. But how creativity can be encouraged with all those rules and cliche? Edward de Bono, a renowned thinker comes up with a lot of tools to generate creative ideas, for example the Lateral Thinking [link]. In his book, he mentioned about creativity and how it was blocked by cliche in human mind.
Innovation seems to be more important than creativity because they generates more profit than creativity. But without creativity, innovations cannot comes into hand. One of the factor that stops people from being creative is the rules and cliche they are bounded to.