by Professor Dr. Sofri Bin Yahya

Organisations and even countries have to continuously innovate. Innovation is not an option but the cornerstone of sustained economic growth and prosperity. The call for innovation has never been more intense and loud. The National Policy on Industry 4.0 known as Industry4WRD which was recently launched by the Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad placed innovation as one of its four specific goals. The goal is to strengthen the country’s innovation capacity and capability as reflected by the improvement in Global Innovation Index ranking from 35th spot to top 30. In his speech, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad highlighted that “these challenges call for Malaysia to be innovative and forward-looking as see to build and economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient, based on the concept of share prosperity.”

Before I continue with this discussion, let us be clear about the meaning of some key terms. There are some confusion about the difference between creativity, innovation and invention. Referring to an article published by Destination-Innovation, entitled “What is the Difference between Creativity and Innovation”, creativity is the capability or act of conceiving something original or unusual. Innovation is the implementation of something new. Invention is the creation of something that has never been made before and is recognised as the product of some unique insights. If you have a brainstorm session and ideate some new ideas, then you have demonstrated creativity, but there is no innovation until something gets implemented. Somebody has to develop some form of prototypes before improving them further to become services or products. These new services or products can be examples of innovation if they fulfil the four criteria; feasibility, viability, desirability and sustainability.

Creativity is essential in business because it is a differentiator, says Tucker Marion. Creativity is what fuels big ideas by systematic thinking process.

Fourth industrial revolution creates a new wave that technological advancement is about to reduce the number of workers for certain tasks. Based on the analysis conducted by World Economic Forum, to prevent this, higher education institutions need to take proactive roles in ensuring that the graduates we develop are equipped with relevant skills that are motivated and agile. One of the key skills required is creativity which can retain or increase their value. Creative humans can win against computers in the workforce of the future. Most jobs require creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas and solutions to work-related problems.

But can we really teach creativity? There are myths about creativity we need to stop believing now. According to Martin Zwilling, most people think creativity is divinely-inspired, unpredictable and bestowed on only a lucky few. Fortunately, many studies have shown that creativity can be taught. With proper training using a systematic methodology, anyone with a common-sense and mind-set grounded in reality can ideate new great ideas. Based on my experience conducting series of innovation and creativity workshops, innovation is not for geniuses working alone but it is a group activity and definitely a teachable skill. There are few methodologies available to stimulate creativity and design thinking is one that I personally believe to be very effective and currently gaining popularity. At DRB-HICOM University we give great emphasis on creativity skill development and design thinking methodology is widely applied in our teaching and administration.

Professor Dr Sofri Yahya is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of DRB-HICOM University in-charged of Academic and Research