Historical and Contemporary Views of Creativity
Creativity can be traced back to the Renaissance time
period when Michelangelo, painter by supernatural beings, such as God. During
the Renaissance period, the concept of creativity started to be applied to
humans in the Romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th century. The
poets and artists of this time period were of the ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel, was viewed as divine. That is, some critics saw Michelangelo’s work as
the prototype of a human being who was able to create something that could
previously only thought to be completed considered individuals who could
provide new symbolic expressions or could think differently from others. In
other words, these individuals were considered creative.
During the past fifty years, some scholars have engaged
in a rigorous study on the concept of creativity, beginning in the area of
psychology with Freud, and later extending to the areas of sociology and
economics. J. P. Guilford catalyzed the study of creativity during his
presidential address to the American Psychological Association in 1950 when he
challenged his colleagues to study this important but neglected field. By
Guilford’s count, only 2 percent of the entries from the Psychological
Abstracts focused on creativity. In addition to Guilford, several additional
individuals emerged as leaders in the study of creativity, including Barron and
and Torrance, both psychometricians, believed divergent thinking was the basis
for creativity and that creativity could be measured. Consequently, Guilford
and Torrance focused on creating tests identifying the personality traits of an
individual that would enhance creativity. They also developed tests that would
measure creativity in the same way that intelligence was being measured,
through IQ tests, and tests that assessed divergent thinking.
Even today, the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking
remains the most widely used assessment of creative talent.
Creativity remained a topic of relatively low interest in
both educational and psychological research until the later part of the twentieth
century, when researchers began studying how to stimulate creative individuals
and how their environment impacted their creativity.
Extensive work has been done by Amabile on the importance
of giving students and
faculty as much creative leeway as possible. Her
research, and the research of others, has found when individuals are personally
committed and intrinsically motivated, these individuals produce better work.
For example, in 1990, Csikszentmihalyi found creative individuals who are
intrinsically motivated choose to pursue more difficult and challenging tasks.
Researchers have increasingly focused on the social and environmental factors
which promote or limit an individual’s creative activity.
What is Creativity?
Creativity is the act of turning new
and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the
ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make
connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions.
Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. If you have
ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.
“Creativity is the process of
bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment.
It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life.
The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy.” – Rollo May,
“A product is creative when it is
(a) novel and (b) appropriate. A novel product is original not predictable. The
bigger the concept, and the more the product stimulates further work and ideas,
the more the product is creative.”
—Sternberg & Lubart, Defying the Crowd
For a proper understanding of children’s creativity, one must distinguish
creativity from intelligence and talent. Ward (1974) expressed concern about
whether creativity in young children could be differentiated from other
cognitive abilities. More recent studies (for example, Moran and others, 1983)
have shown that components of creative potential can indeed be distinguished
from intelligence. The term “gifted” is often used to imply high
intelligence. But Wallach (1970) has argued that intelligence and creativity
are independent of each other, and a highly creative child may or may not be
Creativity goes beyond possession and use of artistic or musical talent.
In this context, talent refers to the possession of a high degree of technical
skill in a specialized area. Thus an artist may have wonderful technical
skills, but may not succeed in evoking the emotional response that makes the
viewer feel that a painting, for example, is unique. It is important to keep in
mind that creativity is evidenced not only in music, art, or writing, but
throughout the curriculum, in science, social studies and other areas.
Most measures of children’s creativity have focused on ideational fluency.
Ideational fluency tasks require children to generate as many responses as they
can to a particular stimulus, as is done in brainstorming. Ideational fluency
is generally considered to be a critical feature of the creative process.
Children’s responses may be either popular or original, with the latter
considered evidence of creative potential. Thus when we ask four-year-olds to
tell us “all the things they can think of that are red,” we find that
children not only list wagons, apples and cardinals, but also chicken pox and
For young children, the focus of creativity should remain on process: the
generation of ideas. Adult acceptance of multiple ideas in a non-evaluative
atmosphere will help children generate more ideas or move to the next stage of
self-evaluation. As children develop the ability for self-evaluation, issues of
quality and the generation of products become more important. The emphasis at
this age should be on self-evaluation, for these children are exploring their
abilities to generate and evaluate hypotheses, and revise their ideas based on
that evaluation. Evaluation by others and criteria for genuinely significant
products should be used only with older adolescents or adults.
What is Innovation?
Innovation is the
implementation of a new or significantly improved product, service or process
that creates value for business, government or society.
Some people say creativity has nothing
to do with innovation— that innovation is a discipline, implying that creativity
is not. But it is wrong. Creativity is also a discipline, and a crucial
part of the innovation equation. There is no innovation without creativity. The
key metric in both creativity and innovation is value creation
Approaches to Creativity
A widely known
and accepted concept of creativity, called ‘Four P’ model based on the
assumption that creativity can be defined as a holistic multi-dimensional
concept. Rhodes(1960) developed a framework for unifying approach to creativity
and found those definitions clustered around four interrelated strands. Those
strands were the creative person, the creative process, the creative product
and the creative press (or environment). All the definitions of creativity are
put under four categories presented below.
Creative Persons: The creativity
aspect can also be discussed on the basis of those personality characteristics
of the creative, which distinguish them from the non-creative. A number of
researches have been done in this area and consequently different researches
have presented different lists of personality traits of a potentially creative
individual e.g. Catell (1968), Torrance (1962), Mackinnon (1962), Foster
(1971), Walberg (1988), Tardif and Sternberg (1988), Hennessey &
of people are creative? Put in another way, what are the abilities and
qualities that seem to produce creativity? High creatives are ususally
differentiate from low creative in terms of certain qualities ( Getzels and
Jackson,!962, Wallach and Kogan, 1965 and Welsh, 1975-77). It is generally
found that people are creative within particular domains, even though people
are creative in different domains may share common traits (Strenberg, 1988;
Walberg, 1988). Thus one may be a creative biologist but an uncreative
novelist. Some of the general characteristics across different domains are
divergent thinking, sustainable motivation, imagination, independence,
tolerance of ambiguity, curiosity, risk taking etc.
Creative Process: different
theorists try to investigate the inner working of the mind that manifests
themselves in creativity. The process approach to creativity is concerned with
what actually happens in producing
something creative. Efforts to identify what goes on in the creative process
were tried by many psychologists, time and again. Graham Walls (1926) proposed
four steps for creative thinking process as the ordinary problem-solving
process is generally characterized by four phases known as Preparation,
Incubation, Illumination and Evaluation or Verification and Revision. (i) Preparation:
One makes purposeful study, makes all the efforts to gather information,
collects the facts and materials considered necessary for the new solution.
(ii) Incubation: It is the period when creative thinker’s turns over the
idea in his mind leisurely and periodically. He allows it to mature. He does
not hurry with it nor completely forgets about it. (iii) Illumination:
At this stage clear conception of the answer to the problem emerges. All his
earlier study, tossing over of the idea in the mind is rewarded by solution
which seems appropriate. (iv) Evaluation
or Verification: The solution is tested to see whether it satisfactorily
solves the problems. (v) Revision: In some cases the solution needs
minor modification and so revision is made.
Creative Product: Creativity can
be said to denote an end product, a quality which a creating person has; while
being creative is said to do something original and of high quality. Generally
‘creating’ involves the creation of an end product or an outcome. Creativity is
considered in terms of actual products, may it be a poem, a theory, a painting,
a story or a solution etc. Usually, these are novelty. uniqueness, usefulness
and relevance. It judge people as creative by what they produce – an original
idea, a story, a machine, a picture, etc.
Creative Press: Another approach to understand the nature of creativity
is in terms of the Press. A potentially creative person may wither in an
environment that does not foster creativity. The more congenial the environment
for creativity, the more a person is likely to exhibit his creativity. Thurston
(1977) was also convinced that creativity can be encouraged or discouraged
through environmental conditions. According to Vinake (1952) creativity is an
intregated harmony between the external world of reality and the individuals
internalized needs. Rasool (1977) has described that all of us are born with
creative potential and if, given proper environment, this potential can be
reorganised, nurtured and measured.
(1996) noted that creativity cannot be studied by isolating the individual from
the social and cultural milieu. He argued that creativity is the product of a
system that includes the creator, the domain and the field (Csikszentmihalyi,
1996). Although Amabile (1983) suggested that all humans have a capacity for
creativity, the environment is an influential determinant, especially where
motivation is concerned. Mathisen and Einarsen (2004) also noted that
organizations may actively create an atmosphere in which creativity and
innovation are either fostered or stifled, both on individual group and
organizational levels. Similarly research has shown that the combination of
supportive and challenging environment is conducive to sustaining high levels
of creativity in individuals as well as teams (West & Richards, 1999).
Components of Creativity
Creativity is multidimensional attribute
differentially distributed among people and includes chiefly that factors of
solving problems- fluency, flexibility, originality, acquisitiveness and
are four components of creativity as described by Psychologist Ellis P.
flexibility, originality, and elaboration.
1. Flexibility: This captures the ability to cross
boundaries and make remote associations. This is measured by number of
different categories of ideas generated.
2. Originality: This measures how statistically
different or novel the ideas are compared to a comparison group. This is
measured as number of novel ideas generated.
3. Fluency: This captures the ability to come up
with many diverse ideas quickly. This is measured by the total number of ideas
4. Elaboration: This measures the amount of
detail associated with the idea. Elaboration has more to do with
focussing on each solution/idea and developing it further.
is comprised of four factors. These four factors make an equation of Creativity
i.e. Creativity = Surprise + Originality
+ Beauty + Utility.
together these criteria/strategies/definitions that are used to measure and
define creativity and solve creative problems, also hint at the underlying
factor structure of creativity.
propose that creativity is made of four factors:
The first factor is SURPRISE: whether one produces something that
continues captivating attention, even though it becomes familiar over time.
This may result from rare and remote association of ideas or a recombination
process that brings familiar things together in an unfamiliar/unexpected way.
This is the ability to think beyond conventional boundaries or categories,
loosen up the associations and make remote associations between and within
categories. This is also related to flexibility with which you
can walk across categories and disciplines. An example might be Mona Lisa
by Da Vinci or putting a urinal in an art gallery.
The second factor is ORIGINALITY: whether one produces something
that is really unique and novel and unheard of before. This is creativity that
is not just combinatorial but perhaps associated with transforming and
transcending. Novelty is a result of new rearrangements of old ideas. If the
first factor is about combination, this may be thought of as permutation or
reordering. This is related to originality scores. An example might
be cubism by Picasso where the face/familiar objects are rearranged, sort of.
The third factor is BEAUTY: whether one produces something that is
appealing and aesthetically satisfying. According to Oscar Wilde: “We can
forgive man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The
only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
All art is quite useless.” It means that art need not be
useful or fulfill the criteria of utility, but is more measured by whether it
fulfils the criterion of aesthetics or beauty. As long as one considers
art as an integral part of creativity, there is need to make room for beauty as
part of defining what is creative: creativity = utility + beauty + novelty.
lies in the eyes of beholder and is related to subjective preferences.
Identifying beauty is a fast and frugal process and as per one conception, we
find something beautiful, if we can process it easily (that is why average
faces are more beautiful- ease of processing). This is related to fluency
scores or the ease with which you can ideate. Expressionisms by Monet
et al looks beautiful because it’s easy on eyes.
The fourth factor is of UTILITY: whether one produces something
that is useful. As evident from the alternate uses task the utility of
something is ambiguous and context dependent and yet measured objectively and
not subjectively. Creativity is the ability to deal with this inherent ambiguity,
be comfortable with it and look at things from multiple simultaneous
perspectives to find useful contexts in which to use/ apply it. This is the
ability to see if the solution actually solves the problem. Also the ability
to elaborate an idea and add details to it, so as to make it
useful/ relevant. Here, one can focus on one stream of thought/ idea and take
it to logical conclusion, adding details and making it complex. The Miniature
art of India, that has elaborate details, is an example of this form, and is
useful in reconstructing history.