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Most people don’t realize there is a difference between creativity and innovation. Creativity is the use of one’s imagination for the creation of original ideas. Innovation is the translating an existing idea into a good or service that creates value. Innovative projects can be executed in a creative way, but they are usually collaborative and don’t develop through distinct creative stages.

Creativity can be broken down into three levels: discovery, invention and creation. Discovery means to uncover something that anyone else could also stumble upon, such as a new technology in your industry. You aren’t responsible for its existence, but you can see its value. If you bring this technology back to your company and come up with an even better way to apply it, you enter the invention stage, since you are responsible for the new implementation but someone else could have come to the same conclusion. While it is a higher level of creativity than merely discovering something, it isn’t the highest tier, which involves coming up with an entirely new idea nobody has ever heard of, inspired by your original finding. The uniqueness of that new application is what makes this the highest level of creativity.

Being a creative person isn’t enough, however. In order to stay successful in business, you also need to practice awareness while searching for new inspiration. That being said, it helps to follow some general guidelines regarding creativity so you don’t fall into harmful patterns.

It is widely known that there is no innovation without knowledge. The only way to see the world is to get out there, so it’s important to experience as much as you can to increase the odds of discovering things. Even subconsciously, your brain might see something of value, so stay up to date on current trends in your industry as well as your competitors. Keep an open mind and try to be as nonjudgemental as possible, since this helps your mind ready to receive new ideas. Being unbiased also limits our potentially tainted perception of the world. With a lot of practice, it’s even possible to fine tune the use of all your senses to really take in everything the world has to offer.

It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes after a brainstorming session it’s a good idea to take a step back before committing to any ideas. Do nothing and let existing thoughts sink in, because they can sometimes lead to new concepts themselves. By letting your ideas hatch on their own, you can also reset your brain. This practice has been proven to aid in creativity. Another great way to see a concept come to life is creative visualization. It provides your brain with a mental rehearsal of how things might play out in the real world.

Another good tip for creative success is to avoid spending too much time searching for new ideas. Try focusing on concepts surrounding the tools and resources you already have at your disposal. Many industry innovators have pulled ahead from their competition using this approach instead of spending time always searching for the next great idea.