What is Creativity?

What is Creativity?


What is creativity? I’ll be honest, creativity is not easily defined. It is a
broad concept that can take on many meanings. As a
psychologist, one interested and studying creativity
and promoting it in individuals, teams, and organizations, I was once perplexed and just a little
frustrated by the slippery nature of this concept. It seemed as though there were nearly as
many definitions and descriptions are creativity as there
were people studying this topic. I no longer see the breadth of meaning of
creativity to be a shortcoming or a hindrance to the fruitful study and
development this precious resource. After all, there are many other qualities that are fundamental to the human
experience that defy easy description and definition. What is
love? How shall we define happiness? What
single definition could be applied to fully capture the words joy or bliss? What does it mean to be content? Is there a single, universally accepted definition of the word friendship? Then there’s the
big question: What is the meaning of life? Well maybe
it may just be creativity, at least in part. While I admit that
creativity can be defined and described in various ways, among Western creativity scholars, one
definition has emerged head and shoulders above all
the others, one that represents a fair degree of
consensus. That is, creativity is often described as
the production of original ideas that are valuable or
useful. Here in this definition, we see what is, in my opinion, one of the
fundamental qualities of creativity: the unification of what appear to be opposite qualities, characteristics that
would seem to struggle to coexist. Yet that is the beauty in creativity: finding a way to merge two forces that pull in opposing directions.
According this popular description of creativity, true creativity is
achieved only when an idea is both original, meaning one-of-a-kind, novel, rare; and at the same
time, this idea must serve some value, fulfill a need, solve a problem, or achieve a goal. Of
course, implied in this description is the fact that the idea, whether it be
tangible – such as a painting, a poem, or a manufactured product – or intangible – a solution to a relationship
issue, a theory, a new service – it must be brought
to fruition. That is, it has to be fully realized. Of
course, the natural question that follows this definition creativity, is: Original and useful to whom? Which
brings us to different levels of creativity. Novel and useful to the individual, to a
small group, to an organization, or to all of society? In simpler terms, we can talk about two
distinct levels of creativity: what is sometimes referred to as Big-C
Creativity and little-c creativity. Big-C Creativity,
what many people think of as creativity, refers to eminent acts of
creativity, those creative ideas that are novel and
useful at a societal level. The works developed
by eminently creative individuals, such as Picasso, Shakespeare, Curie, Zuckerburg, Martin
Luther King, Stephen King, Gates, Edison, Disney, Angelou, Gandhi, Mozart, O’Keeffe, et cetera. Little-c creativity refers to everyday
creativity, the creative act we perform in our daily
lives to make our personal and professional
lives more effective and interesting. Making a good meal. Entertaining our
children. Changing our appearance. Resolving a
persistent problem at work. Planning a special occasion. Making a
personalized gift for someone you love. Although these acts do not have a grand
impact on society, they are nonetheless examples of how we
bring creativity into our day-to-day living, and how such
creative outcomes, new and useful ideas, make our lives a
bit easier and more enjoyable. While the view that creativity is a
production of ideas that are original, valuable, and realized is the most often
cited definition of creativity, it presents a limited view of creativity, a
view focused on an outcome, the production of something. In 1961, Mel Rhodes published a paper on
creativity. The purpose of this paper was to define
creativity. From his analysis of more than 50-some published definitions of
creativity, he discovered that four themes emerged. One theme focus on creativity as a
product, the definition I just described. The production of original ideas that
are useful is focused squarely on the product aspect of creativity. Yet
Rhodes discovered three more facets to creativity: the Creative Process, the Creative Environment
(which Rhodes originally referred to as the Creative Press), and finally, the Creative Person. If
you’re keeping track at home, you know that Rhodes identified four
themes, and that he uses a P word for each theme, which has become known as the Four Ps of
creativity: Product, Process, Press, and Person. In our Creativity 101 series and in other
videos, you can learn information about the Process P. Creative
process refers to the stages of thought that one goes through to produce a creative outcome. What is a surprise to those not familiar
with the field creativity is that process skills can be taught. Research has shown that
the deliberate practice can significantly improve an individual’s ability to think in more
imaginative ways, solve problems more creatively, and
improve creative performance overall. Indeed, this is our area
of speciality at the International Center for Studies
in Creativity. In the last several decades, more and more
researchers have focused on the impact the environment has on our ability to
create. I’m sure that if you reflect on your own
experience as a student or employee, you can easily identify those learning
environments, or places of work, that either facilitated and challenged
you to think more creatively, or in those unfortunate
circumstances, those educational environments or work
situations in which your imagination was stifled. I’ve saved the Person facet of creativity for last. In my opinion, the previous facets
discussed are dependent upon the individual. Creativity does not exist in a vacuum,
nor is it – despite legends and folklore – dispensed
by a muse, or some other external agent. Creativity originates with the person. A creative product doesn’t come about if
imaginative thinking does not occur first. An environment that supports creative
thinking doesn’t happen by mere chance. Individuals must consciously work to
build such an environment. And the creative process exists in our
minds, not in a pill, a lucky star, a rabbit’s foot, or a bold
of lightning. Again, the creative product, environment, or
process do not exist without the person, and this brings me back to a
point I made earlier: Creativity is about life.It’s about the
choices we make as individuals in terms of how we wish
to live. How much do you choose to inject
imagination into your own personal and professional life? The benefit of
applying our imagination in this manner is that we live a fuller
life, we maximize our potential, we become more
effective, we inspire others, we develop ourselves
to our fullest capacity. We experience a deep sense of
satisfaction when we create. We discover new things about ourselves.
We are our most powerful selves when we imagine and then create new
possibilities. Being creative is deeply human. More than
any other creature on earth, we have the ability to see and construct new
possibilities and realities. Picture life without creativity: no
imagination, no variety, no possibility for change. I’ve been told that during the Communist
Era in Russia, when people were all treated in the same manner, when freedom of expression was
suppressed, when the focus was on sameness, that
creativity still thrived, but underground. While the homes, for
example, all look the same from the outside, there
was often great thought put into the decor and interior
design that allowed for a flare-up of imagination
and individuality. Cutting off our creativity disconnects us
from a part of what it means to be human. And even under oppressive environments,
our creativity will come to the surface. We at the International Center for Studies in
Creativity believe that creativity is an essential life skill. As the
American actor Alan Alda said about creativity, “Be brave
enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one
else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your
comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by
bus, only by hard work and risk and by not
quite knowing what you’re doing. What you will discover will be wonderful. What you will discover
will be yourself.” We’ve designed this Creativity 101
series to help people, to help you, understand some important
creativity basics. If you’re interested in learning more. I
invite you to explore the series. I will close with a quote from one of the
pioneering scholars in the field of creativity, JP Guilford, who said, “To live is to have
problems, and to solve problems is to grow
creatively.”

18 thoughts on “What is Creativity?

  1. Excellent! Glad I found this. Thank you.

  2. Excellent introduction. Thank you.

  3. Excellent study. Thank for posting.

  4. Very good lecture and introduction on the topic of creativity

  5. Anyone who has to study creativity must be a soulless, inept sociopath and should do the human race favour and off-themselves.

  6. good

  7. What an amazing set of eyebrows this guy has. I am truly impressed.

  8. Problem solving need crrativity skill

  9. Fun. 💫🐲✨🛀🏽🏅🎗🌈💡

  10. Most creative ideas are typical meshes or "borrowing" of ideas

  11. Love the part about CHOOSING to create in everyday life! I feel like I lack creativity, but when you quoted Alan Alda, and got to the part about not really knowing what we're doing, I realized that fear holds me back. Fear of looking foolish. I have this "need" to know that takes over my need to create.

  12. WoW! Highly instructive video. Makes sense. Instantly actionable takeaways.

  13. Creativity is the free association of random relationships, i.e., a stream of consciousness. It is the opposite of logic, which is thinking that is disciplined, structured. Creative thinking can be deliberately confined to some particular theme or absolutely transcendental to the point at which everything becomes One.

  14. This is a great initiative!

  15. I don't mean to be rude but this lecture is rather boring. Surely a more creative approach could have been used to make the point.

  16. Well researched talk!

  17. The Lecture really brings all my thoughts together as an African art music composer. The 4Ps are a reality. It confirms Peter Webster's position on musician's Creative Thinking Process. My graduate students in musical composition confirmed it explains most of the readings I gave them this semester for the course. Kudos!

  18. Thank you Gerard, I found this video very helpful

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