Creativity refers to the ability to generate, create or discover new ideas, imaginations, methods, solutions, and possibilities. The concept is closely associated with a form of intelligence that allows people to transcend the traditional way of thinking and discover something new.
What Is Creativity?
Creativity typically refers to our ability 1 to use our imagination to develop or identify new and alternative ideas, approaches, possibilities and opportunities for expressing ourselves and for entertaining, communicating and problem solving. It is our ability to create new and useful products & solutions. This product may be tangible or intangible, like an invention, an artwork, a book, an idea, a theory, a composition etc. According to a 2019 study 2, “Creativity plays a vital role in individual career success and represents an unconventional way of thinking that is critical to problem solving, individual progress, change, and innovation.” It enables us to communicate our beliefs, values and ideas to others and satisfies our need for novel & advanced stimulation.
It is an idea and action which challenges and transforms the existing and established rules and domains and strives to be acknowledged as an aspect of the new and improved domains. However, simply being novel is not enough as our ideas, solutions and products must have some worth and value to meet the existing cognitive demands. According to a 2006 study 3, “The term ‘creativity’, meaning to produce something out of nothing, is not accurate. A definition that included the establishment, the founding or the introduction of something anew for the first time would be rather appropriate.” It is our capacity to conceive and perceive ourselves, our lives and the world in unique and new ways and find new solutions by identifying hidden associations between unconnected phenomena.
The term was coined by renowned psychologist Joy Paul Guilford. The concept of creativity is a complex process and there is no clear consensus about how exactly one can define it. Researchers 4 believe that it “is a relevant yet elusive concept, and consequently there is a large range of methods to assess creativity in many different contexts.” In simple forms, it can be characterized by an act or ability to create new connections between old concepts and recognizing the relationships between them. It encompasses an extremely grand and inspirational act, but the act should not necessarily involve anything artistic or world-changing to be counted as creative. This act or ability can be identified or observed when someone comes up with a creative idea. It engages the mind and enables a person to absorb knowledge more effectively. Along with this, this ability unblocks the old patterns of thinking and allows a non-linear way of thinking.
There are certain theories of creativity that involve a variety of significant aspects. American educational scientist Mel Rhodes has identified certain dominant factors as ‘the four Ps’ –
The process in cognitive approaches describes thought mechanisms and techniques for creative thinking. A focus on the product usually helps to measure creative ideas. The personality or nature of the creative person considers general intellectual habits, the levels of ideation, expertise, exploratory behavior, and more. The place factor explains the circumstances or situation in which creative ideas flourish.
The Psychology Of Creativity
There are many pieces to this concept that include imagination, the balance between controlled and deliberate thought processes, and spontaneous play. Personality plays a huge role in this creative process as well as the environment and experiences. According to a 2015 research paper 5, the character traits named Openness to Experience, Extroversion, Conscientiousness are closely associated with the creative process encompassing a receptivity to new ideas and experiences. “Individuals are more likely to have scientific discoveries if they possess certain personality traits of creativity (trait creativity), including imagination, curiosity, challenge and risk-taking.”, the study further added. In fact, research 6 shows that this ability is not only beneficial for the individual but also for the society as a whole.
People who meet new individuals, process different emotions, and travel to exotic destinations are highly capable of adopting new experiences. These perspectives help an individual to forge new creative connections. Researchers 7 believe that creative cognition and creative drives such as mood states, emotion, motivation plays a crucial role in shaping the creative mind. Creative thinking refers to new connections between different ideas. The process of developing creative abilities includes cultivating divergent thinking skills and exposing oneself to new experiences and learning. Although several prominent psychologists have proposed various factors of creativity, a 2012 study 8 mentions that the basic concept of this exceptional quality includes three primary components or criteria such as originality, functionality or usefulness, and surprise.
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The discovered idea or concept should not be an extension of something that already exists. It must be unique and have a low probability.
2. Functionality or usefulness
This criterion explains that the idea should be workable enough such as a solution that should solve a problem. It should possess some degree of usefulness. For example, if a newly invented recipe that tastes extremely terrible cannot be counted as creative.
The third and final component is that the idea should be non-obvious as well as surprising. These three components are mostly quantitative rather than qualitative attributes of an idea.
The Creative Process
Creative people tend to apply unique thought processes to their work, but most of them follow a certain creative process while pursuing their creative endeavors. Prominent psychologists agree upon the fact that innovative ideas happen when one develops a new combination of old elements. And, the ability to generate new ideas is possible only by recognizing the relationships between different concepts. A 2018 research paper 9 mentions that the creative process includes five significant steps and each step flows logically into the next step of the process. The five stages include:
1. Preparation stage
The first stage is about the preparation work and idea generation. One gathers information and conducts research that could bloom into a new creative idea. Brainstorming or writing in a journal helps to foster divergent thinking. This stage offers all the possible approaches that can build a creative idea.
2. Incubation stage
The second step explains where one lets his/her creative thinking go. In simple form, creative thinking refers to taking a step away from the idea before creating the final one. One might work on a different project to take a break from the creative process. It might seem counterproductive, but it is an extremely important stage to let the idea incubate in the back of one’s mind.
3. Illumination stage
This stage is also known as the insight stage. It occurs when spontaneous new connections form and the material or information one has gathered comes together to their creative quest. The idea flourishes with a new insight and renewed energy. An illumination stage helps an idea to emerge.
4. Evaluation stage
One considers the validity of the idea and compares it with other important alternatives. During this stage, one looks back to the initial concept to check if the idea aligns with it or not.
5. Verification stage
The hard work happens in the final stage. The ultimate creative product that one set out to create and propelled by the initial concept, is finalized during this stage. One brings life to the idea and shapes it based on the feedback. It is extremely essential to share the idea with the world, submit it to criticism and adapt it as needed.
Types Of Creativity
Several researchers try to distinguish between different types of creativity. But prominent psychologists James C Kaufman and Ronald A Beghetto developed the “Four-C model” which explains the most significant types.
1. The Mini-C
The mini-C type involves certain personally meaningful ideas that only the self knows. It is the smaller-C of the little-C category. This type is specially designed to encompass the creativity inherent in the learning process.
2. The Little-C
This type explains everyday thinking and problem-solving. One can solve different everyday problems that they face in their life and adjust to the changing environment only by adopting this type.
3. The Pro-C
This type can be observed among professionals who are already skilled in creative thinking in their respective fields. Despite being creative in their vocations or professions, they do not achieve eminence for their capabilities.
4. The Big-C
The type is significantly related to eminence and acclaim. It plays a pivotal role in world-changing creations including medical inventions, artistic achievements, and technological advances. This type explains those creative ideas that are considered great and exceptional in specific fields.
Can Creative Thinking Be Learned?
“Having a creative mind is one of the gateways for achieving fabulous success and remarkable progress in professional, personal and social life,” suggests a 2019 study 7. Hence, learning to think creatively can certainly be beneficial for most individuals. The root of creative thinking is a foundation of knowledge, learning discipline, and mastering a new way of thinking. One can learn this skill by experimenting, exploring, utilizing imagination power, and questioning assumptions. Research 10 says that education hugely contributes to fostering creativity, not merely in elites, but all learners. This learning process is closely associated with learning a sport. It requires immense practice to develop significant skills and find a supportive environment in which to flourish. It cannot be learned by only attending any course or lecture but by applying the new thinking processes. Over the last half-century, various training programs have been proposed that are intended to generate creative capacities in people.
According to a 2018 study 11, genetic influences play an important role in divergent and convergent thinking. Though few professionals argue that the ability for creative thinking is intrinsic to all people to a greater or lesser extent, most researchers agree that everyone can learn the fundamental skills to be creative, beyond the level of genetic predisposition. However, the concept is extremely sensitive to experience and it offers various challenges to drive and reinforce. Studies 10 have shown that creative thinking training can significantly increase one’s “ideation skills and, more importantly, their cognitive flexibility.”
The Key Traits Of Creativity
Studies have shown that creative individuals are more likely to possess a variety of traits that contribute to innovative or divergent thinking. Here are the three most significant traits:
According to a 2013 study 12, intelligence is highly relevant for creative thinking and acts as an actual indicator for it. It shows that a high intelligent quotient (IQ) is extremely necessary for creative skill, but not all high IQ people are creative.
Creative people tend to possess high levels of both physical and mental energy. They spend most of the time thinking and reflecting on new and existing ideas.
Learning a creative skill is not about sitting around waiting for an inspiration to strike. This is why creative people tend to be disciplined in the pursuit of their fields and passion.
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Creativity And The Brain
Some age-old research describes the classic dogma that the left part of the brain is for logic and analytics, while the right part is more creative and emotional. But recent advances in neuroscience indicate that both parts create neurological connections and transmit numerous signals for the creative acts to work. Recent research 13 based on neuroscience and psychology reveals that creative thinking necessitates cognitive effort in order to overcome the distraction of prior knowledge and develop new perceptions. Though it requires more research to know how the brain produces creative thought, a 2015 research paper 14 mentions that three key networks operate as a team to spark creative thinking in the human brain. The key networks are:
1. The default mode network
The default mode network refers to a certain brain activity pattern that becomes active when people are not focused on the outside world. It occurs when people daydream, rest and imagine the future. This network helps an individual to generate ideas.
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2. The executive control network
This network is also known as the executive function which describes the symptoms or the processes that allow people to execute their plans to achieve the goals. It monitors the observations, connections, and ideas that are generated. It helps people to evaluate their creative ideas.
3. The salience network
This brain network helps to identify relevant and important ideas among others. It is considered a large system of the human brain that detects and filters important information from the environment.
Creativity And Mental Illness
Creativity and its association with mental health have always been much speculated about. However, there are a handful of methodologically sound studies to establish the relationship between creative skill and mental illness. A 2016 study 15 says that psychotic spectrum disorders like bipolar, schizotypy, and schizophrenia are disproportionately observed in creative individuals. This study has found that genetic variants schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are more common in certain creative professions. But creative skill is a broad construct that has been defined and operationalized in various ways across the studies. Meanwhile, mental illness is a heterogeneous construct that encompasses multiple symptoms and reflects societal and cultural definitions and norms. However, it is extremely difficult to determine whether there is a relationship between creativity and mental illness.
The Dark Creativity
Creative thinking skill is considered a socially beneficial trait. But it can also be used in a negative and destructive manner by some people who use their imagination in pursuit of antisocial ends. This utilization of creativity is often termed dark or malevolent creativity. In recent times, researchers have gained a greater understanding of how negative traits and creative skill interrelate. According to a 2012 research paper 16, people with creative personalities tend to cheat more than less-creative individuals. It shows that those who are primed to think creatively, are more likely to behave dishonestly than those in a controlled condition. Another recent 2020 study 17 has found that the concept of dark creativity is linked to certain personality traits in the dark triad, such as narcissism.
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How To Be More Creative?
Some people consider creativity as a birth gift, but this idea can be bestowed upon certain prominent personalities. Meanwhile, it is not a gift, but rather a useful skill for people from all fields of life. Here are the six important tips to boost your creative skills:
1. Commit yourself
The first step to develop creative skills is to devote yourself to this process. One should not put off the efforts. You need to set goals, enlist the help of others, and put time aside every day to develop your skills.
2. Schedule your creativity
This step helps one to achieve regular progress which leads to more motivation. It helps you create more. Regular chunks of creative work are easier to keep yourself motivated. One cannot expect to master the skill from the start. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and try to learn from them.
3. Celebrate your curiosity
Rewarding yourself is very important to develop intrinsic motivation. One should not think that curiosity is an indulgence. Reward yourself whenever you feel curious about a certain thing. Offer yourself enough opportunities to explore new topics. One cannot develop creative talents unless they make time for it to practice.
4. Be confident about the outcome
Being insecure about your abilities often suppresses your creative abilities. That’s why it is important to build confidence. Commend your regular efforts and try to reward yourself for the progress. Try to eliminate negative thoughts as self-criticism impairs the process of developing strong creative skills. Along with this, the fear of failure can paralyze your progress. Always remember that mistakes are simple parts of the learning process.
5. Brainstorm new ideas
In both academic and professional fields, brainstorming is a very common technique. However, it is considered an extremely powerful tool to develop creative skills. Suspend your judgments or self-criticism, write down the ideas and possible solutions. The aim of you should be to generate as many ideas as possible in a short time. The next step is to refrain from your ideas and make the best possible choice.
6. Consider alternative solutions
Try to look for a variety of solutions. One should think of all the possible ways to approach the situation or circumstance. Exploring multiple possibilities is a great way to develop both problem-solving and creative thinking skills.
Develop Your Creative Skills
Creativity enables a person to solve complex problems or find interesting ways to approach tasks. Being creative allows people to face challenges or conventional wisdom. One can learn creative skills and discover new ways of doing things by observing the world around you. Therefore, the most important asset to add to one’s innovation skillset is the capability to drive new ideas to the next level. So it is never too late to learn how you can develop creativity and master your respective field.
Creativity At A Glance
- Creativity refers to our ability to use our imagination to develop new and alternative ideas, approaches and opportunities for entertaining, communicating, problem solving, and expressing ourselves.
- Creative thinking skill is considered a socially beneficial trait.
- This process includes imagination, the balance between controlled and deliberate thought processes, and spontaneous play.
- Creative people tend to apply unique thought processes to their work, but most of them follow a certain creative process while pursuing their creative endeavors.
- Having a creative mind is one of the gateways for achieving success and progress in professional, personal and social life.
- Creativity enables a person to solve complex problems or find interesting ways to approach tasks.
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