A Theological Perspective of Entrepreneurship: Creative and Innovative

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Posted on September 5, 2022


By Jordan J. Ballor.

What distinguishes something truly creative from something simply innovative? And what value do we give to each other, what hierarchy?

In a recent study ” Creativity, Innovation, and the Historicity of Entrepreneurship,” Victor Claar and I attempt to remove the ambiguity between what we call “creative entrepreneurship” and “innovative entrepreneurship”.

We describe creative entrepreneurship (or more generally creativity) as “what human beings do with the innate, fundamental nature of things. » There are possibilities inherent in the given order, beginning with what God has created. In this way creativity and ontology are linked; it depends on the nature of what has been given to us to use and discover in the created order.

It is different (but not unrelated) from what is called innovative entrepreneurship (or innovation in general), which can be understood as “a phenomenon linked to the historical progress of humanity. » In other words, innovation is what human beings glimpse from what has already been discovered.

In a way, everything new has elements of both of these dimensions, so it takes some judgment to know if something is more or less radically new. But it is also true that our political and cultural expectations and norms can privilege one over the other. A more conservative or traditional society is likely to prefer incremental change and innovation to entirely new inventions that serve creative destruction.

In our study published in the Journal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policywe cite some examples of creative and innovative entrepreneurship, even if it is also said that the “creativity, in the sense of what is created by human beings from what exists, leads to innovation, which is considered to be what men create from what others have created . »

Once you understand this basic distinction, you start to see more and more examples of it.

For example, according to the document “Business Leader, a Reflection,” published by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development: “Successful companies manage to identify and seek to respond to real human needs and do so with a very high level of excellence, making extensive use of innovation, creativity and the spirit of initiative. » The document then refers to a distinction that fundamentally coincides with our perspective on creativity and innovation.

Good business leaders “produce what has already been produced in the past, but often – as in the fields of medicine, communication, financing, the food industry, energy and social protection – they invent and deploy completely new means of responding to human needs. » So, in this sense, good business leaders not only personify creativity but they are also innovatorssince they “gradually improve their products and services which, when they are really good, contribute to improving people’s quality of life. »

Thus a fuller understanding of entrepreneurship requires a theological perspective, which sees human actions as fundamental and inescapably stemming from what God did in the first place, whether generally in terms of creation, or more specifically in terms of of love and redemption.

Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch Reformed theologian, speaks of artists in a way that can apply equally to entrepreneurship in the economic field:

“The artist has a trained eye, capable of seeing what is invisible to you. He has a more fertile imagination and captures, in the mirror of this imagination, things that escape you. He sees more; more thoroughly and precisely; he sees things in relation to each other. Moreover, it is sensitive to pleasurable impressions and can make these impressions perceptible in a way that nature does not allow, but also in a way that enables you, with your more limited and less trained eye, to enjoy similar sensations. »

Likewise, the entrepreneur has the art of seeing things with new eyes, things that were previously latent in the created order, dormant and awaiting human action. And all this depends mainly and fundamentally on what God, the origin and source of all that is good, has already done and continues to do.

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A Theological Perspective of Entrepreneurship: Creative and Innovative

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