What is Creativity?
Creativity is the ability to think in novel ways and to generate unconventional ideas and solutions to problems.
Intelligence versus Creativity
Creative people are often intelligent, but intelligent people are not always creative. According to Sternberg, intelligent people tend to produce a lot of good results, but the results are not novel, interesting, or different; intelligent people tend to please the mob, but not defy it; and, intelligent people tend to generate only one answer to one problem, whereas creative people produce many answers to a single problem.
The Creative Process
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identifies five activities creative people engage to:
- Preparation - gaining interest and curiosity, and immersing one's self in a certain problem or issue;
- Incubation - generating diverse ideas, and making unusual connections among these ideas;
- Insight - gaining a clear and concrete picture of how the ideas relate to each other;
- Evaluation - deciding the workability and value of an idea; and,
- Elaboration - transforming the idea into action.
The creative process is not always linear. Sometimes, elaboration is interrupted by incubation and insight sometimes appears during incubation, evaluation and elaboration. Sometimes, it may take hours or even years for insights to appear; and insights may be either deep, or come in small series.
Characteristics of Creative People
Perkins identifies 4 characteristics of creative people:
Flexible and Playful Thinking. Creative people like to challenge the convention and give rise to paradox. They practice brainstorming to come up with as many ideas as possible. They enjoy the company of other creative people with whom they play off each other's ideas, and then share their unconventional ideas without the threat of criticisms. They also often utilize humor to avoid censorship and to generate thoughts more quickly.
Intrinsic Motivation. Creative people generate novel ideas for no other reason but the joy of creating. They enjoy their creativity. External factors are in fact more damaging because they limit their creativity.
Willingness to Risk. Creative people never mind failure. Failure can be translated to fear, and fear can impede curiosity. Creativity is all about generating more ideas and possibilities, and creative people are fully aware that more ideas means committing a good number of mistakes. But unlike most goal-oriented people, creative people deliberately make mistakes to come up with the best opportunities to learn. For example, not all the 2,000 paintings made by Pablo Picasso are masterpieces.
Objectivity. Creative people are also fully aware of how they can get out of hand with their own ideas, so they intentionally come up with rather stringent rules to evaluate and criticize their work. They come up with their own criteria of judging the value of their work, and they also extensively consult other people's opinions. In fact, they hold the opinions of people who think differently than them as more significant than the ideas of people who agree with them.
- Mark Strand, former US poet laureate, describes his most creative moments as those in which he loses the sense of time, becoming too absorbed in the activity, which often involves dismantling and remaking meanings. These creative moments are fleeting. They come and go, and they tend to come randomly, so he takes advantage of them by transforming every generated idea into a verbal image that he can get back to when needed. Bill Gates of Microsoft also brings with him a notebook in which he jots down every valuable or interesting idea that comes to mind.
- Nina Holton is a popular contemporary sculptor who shares that creative sculptures are a combination of unique ideas and hard work. She emphasizes "hard work" because determination and persistence makes ideas into reality.
- Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, reveals that his best ideas pop out whenever he suddenly wakes up from sleep. Visualizing his ideas for a few minutes after such an event brings about a concrete plan that he follows through. Salk believes that people should nurture their creativity by conversing with open-minded, curious, and positive people.
How to Cultivate Curiosity
Csikszentmihalyi interviewed 90 leading figures in various professions - art, business, government, education, and science - in 1996 on how they live a creative life. The interviews seem to show that creative people tend to challenge themselves regularly. They are curious, interested, and passionate on their chosen fields. Csikszentmihalyi thus concludes that the first step to creativity is to cultivate curiosity. Some of his recommendations are to surprise one's self or another everyday; to reflect on these surprises; to let one's self follow through an interest; to have an idea ready for tomorrow before sleeping; and to identify and take advantage of certain triggers to creativity, like the times of the day and the settings that facilitate creativity. Research shows that the highest levels of creativity occur when people are engaged in semiautomatic activities (e.g., walking, driving, swimming) and when people are in a relaxed, half-awake state.
- What is the Nature of Intelligence?
- How Do We Measure Intelligence?
- How Does Neuroscience Investigate Intelligence?
- What are the Different Theories of Multiple Intelligence?
- What are the Extremes of Intelligence?
- What is Creativity?
- How Does Heredity and Environment Influence Intelligence?
- Is There Really a General Intelligence?
- How Creative Are You?