The art and science of bringing new ideas to fruition

define innovation

Innovation is the ability to generate and execute on new ideas. These ideas can be incremental, evolutionary, or revolutionary. Innovative organizations repeatedly bring new products or services to market over time.

When you take into account the current churn rate, about half of S&P 500 companies will be replaced over the next ten years by digitally native companies and other upstarts capitalizing on disruptive new technologies like automation and artificial intelligence.1 Innovation and the need for reinvention are an existential necessity.

Innovation Starts with Creativity

Enter creativity: Your tool to embrace and drive change

The future is going to look different. Let's explore what you can do to take ownership and help lead yourself and others. First and foremost, understand that innovation starts with creativity.

There's a myth surrounding creativity, that you have it or you don't, and only the “sage on the stage,” like a Steve Jobs, can generate new ideas. This could not be further from the truth. Creativity can be learned through focused practice. At IDEO, we refer to the ability or skill in generating, embracing, and acting on new ideas as “creative confidence.”

innovation quotes

Below are some data points for the more analytically oriented:


One recent IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs reports that creativity is the single most important leadership competency for enterprises facing the complexity of global commerce today.2


An Adobe Systems poll of five thousand people on three continents reports that 80 percent of people see unlocking creative potential as key to economic growth. Yet only 25 percent of these individuals feel that they're living up to their creative potential in their own lives and careers.3

design innovation

Companies in the index: Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford, Herman-Miller, IBM, Intuit, Newell-Rubbermaid, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Starwood, Steelcase, Target, Walt Disney, Whirlpool, and Nike. From

Creativity Builds Business Value

Building on the importance of creativity in driving innovation is the early evidence that design-driven companies outperform the market.4 Companies that focus on design are putting users and customers at the center and creating new solutions around their needs. These companies are exhibiting creative problem solving at scale. In an index created by the Design Management Institute, companies with a strategic-level commitment to design outperformed the market by an impressive 228% over roughly a decade from 2003 to 2013.

“When people transcend the fears that block their creativity, all sorts of new possibilities emerge. Instead of being paralyzed by the prospect of failure, they see every experience as an opportunity they can learn from. The need for control keeps some people stuck at the planning stage of a project. With creative confidence, they become comfortable with uncertainty and are able to leap into action.”

Authors of Creative Confidence

Build Creative Confidence on Your Team

At IDEO, we've spent a considerable amount of our 40-year history learning innovation by doing and practicing, from designing the first commercial mouse to redesigning complex ecosystems like school systems or the voting experience in the largest US city. Over this time we've been looking inward to continually improve how we bring out a culture of creativity on our teams while also standing by in support to help clients undertake transformations of their own. In addition, we've also been examining our own comparative data set of thousands of companies to learn what makes companies more creatively competitive. What we learned is that these two abilities are critical for building a creative and innovative culture:

examples of innovation

Navigating the Unknown

Today, leaders are more often than not faced with a great challenge of leading their teams and companies through uncertainty. There's no no obvious path or process to follow, a lack of clarity around who to involve, and fogginess around concrete goals. Creative leaders hold the space for this ambiguity, approaching it with an open, curious mind and inspiring others to do the same. They are able to generate, embrace, and execute on new ideas, especially when the path forward is unclear.

Collaborating Across Diverse Stakeholders

The most effective teams are built on a foundation of diversity and trust. Creative leaders set the conditions for their teams to embrace many diverse perspectives, seek collaboration, and creatively thrive by freeing themselves from the fear of failure. A deep sense of self-awareness enables them to grow and activate purpose in their work and for their team.

More Resources to Get Started on Innovation

Wondering where to get started? Below is a curated list of our favorite resources to get your team and company on a path towards executing against bold new ideas.