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I can't find "ideator" in traditional dictionaries, but I've found it on urbandictionary.com and with an unfortunate definition on Medical Dictionary (related to suicide).

Urban Dictionary

Ideator A person who creates productive ideas, a conceptualist.A person that processes and passes on their ideas and inventions to others to help sell or publisize a commodity. A solutions person, problem solver, think tank.

Medical Dictionary

A person experiencing suicidal ideation

So, my question is twofold:

  1. If I use this in public communication such as articles, white-papers, etc., does this word harm my credibility or the quality of my writing?

  2. Is there a better word that means the same thing?

Here is an example of the word in-context in an article about leadership and the workforce:

Marcus is an ideator, but, generally, current corporate structures and cultures do not know what to do with an ideator; there's no processes or expertise to identify, encourage, nurture or leverage ideators within the workforce. Frustrated, ideators leave organizations to join other organizations or to strike out on their own when most businesses could greatly benefit from the presence of ideators within their ranks...

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  • 'Ideas man / woman' used to be quite common. Apr 8 '15 at 18:38
  • 2
    It is interesting that the OED does not have an entry for suicidal ideation, nor does it link ideator with this medical use. I recognise that it is in various medical dictionaries but am puzzled as to why this has not been picked up more generally.
    – WS2
    Apr 8 '15 at 22:33
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Because of the strong negative connotations created by the specialized medical use, using ideator in a serious positive context is a tough decision. A person imagining suicide is actually a denotation of ideator :

A person experiencing suicidal ideation
medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com

On the other hand, that derivative is based on a broader definition of ideate:

verb

[WITH OBJECT] chiefly Psychology
1.0 Form an idea of; imagine or conceive.

1.1 [NO OBJECT] Form ideas; think.
ODO

Consistent with the definition on Urbandictionary.com, Wiktionary offers a general definition of ideator:

One who ideates; one who holds or generates an idea, or synthesizes a concept.
Wiktionary.com

There is significant evidence that ideator continues to be used in positive non-slang contexts. One example from pages 262-264 of Creative Leadership: Skills That Drive Change by Gerard J. Puccio, Marie Mance and Mary C. Murdock:

This indicates that, as the Ideator score goes up, so does an individual's tendency to produce many original ideas. [discussion omitted]...
Meanwhile, the Ideator scale showed a strong negative relationship with Steadiness. This finding reveals that individuals with high Ideator tendencies have a degree of comfort with change, seek variety,and are willing to challenge prevailing thought [discussion omitted]...
For example, effective ideation may not only depend on one's ability to think like an Ideator but also to experience feeling like an ideator.
Emphasis mine

Apparently, some creative people are convinced that the positive connotations of ideate, overcome the negative connotations of the medical usage.

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  • Thank you for the excellent answer. I'm assuming that you don't have any better alternatives to suggest, is that correct?
    – mawcsco
    Apr 8 '15 at 19:59
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    You are welcome, @mawcsco. To recommend an alternative, I would need a clear sense of how you intend to use the word. The larger context of a sentence impacts word selection.
    – ScotM
    Apr 8 '15 at 20:09
  • I agree with @ScotM that context would be necessary to suggest an alternative. "Ideator" is a very seldom used word, though perhaps in some professional services it may be common. I would not know what you were talking about if you used it in a sentence or spoke it to me. Context would lead me to guess at the meaning.
    – Lynxear
    Apr 8 '15 at 21:31
  • I've added context to my original question.
    – mawcsco
    Apr 8 '15 at 22:46
5

Marcus is an innovator, but, generally, current corporate structures and cultures do not know what to do with an innovator; there's no processes or expertise to identify, encourage, nurture or leverage innovators within the workforce. Frustrated, innovators leave organizations to join other organizations or to strike out on their own when most businesses could greatly benefit from the presence of innovators within their ranks...

innovator:

noun

A person who introduces new methods, ideas, or products:
ODO Emphasis mine

An article from Forbes Magazine, by John Hall, articulates why many corporate cultures discourage ideators and their innovative ideas:

10 Barriers to Employee Innovation

  1. Closed-Mindedness...
  2. Traditions...
  3. Jealousy...
  4. Money...
  5. Generational Differences/Age...
  6. Communication...
  7. Size...
  8. Education...
  9. Thought Leadership...
  10. Resources...
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  • Thanks for the answer. I am decidedly avoiding the word "innovator" in my current project. I left that information out of my question because I wondered if anyone would recommend this word. You've validated my hypothesis, so thanks again.
    – mawcsco
    Apr 9 '15 at 15:45
  • Sometimes it's wise to clothe strengths others define as weaknesses in the "weakness" they define as strength, @mawcsco. Marcus may overcome the obstacles and find a way to bring innovation to his new job anyway.
    – ScotM
    Apr 9 '15 at 16:04
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We used the word, 'ideator' almost 30 years ago in advertising business for the creators such as copy writers, art directors and storyboard writers who always come up with fresh and selling idea and ad concept, though I'm not very sure if it still applies today or not.

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I'm posting just to say that I like originator as well.

originator - someone who creates new things or ideas

The originator of something such as an idea or scheme is the person who first thought of it or began it. [definition] definition 2

In this way he became the originator of that genetic or historical method which has since been applied to all human ideas and institutions.

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