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How Do You Define Creativity?

Profile photo of Harry Hoover Submitted by Harry Hoover November 6, 2015



What does creativity mean  to you? Do you immediately think of purely artistic ability? Let’s go to the dictionary to see what it says about the subject.


The definition above mentions artistic work, but it doesn’t exclude non-artistic work.

I typically use Robert Franken’s definition of creativity, which you can see in the image at the top of this post. Recently, I discovered the Iowa State Center for Excellence. What they say about creativityreally resonated with me,

No one idea of creativity fits all fields of endeavor. Creativity calls on cognitive and non-cognitive skills, curiosity, intuition, and doggedness. Creative solutions can be created or discovered, in a flash or over a period of decades.

At one time creativity was thought of as a culture-changing product of a genius like Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, or Steve Jobs. Over the past several years, however, emphasis on such phenomena, sometimes called “Big-C” creativity, has given way to an interest in what is called “little-c” or everyday creativity, a process in which many can and do participate.

Creativity does not arise in a vacuum; it requires a certain degree of both general knowledge and field-specific knowledge. This is clearly true if we think of creativity as a form of innovation – we cannot know what is novel without a sense of what is already known in any area.

Researchers who have attempted to measure creativity or creative aptitude use similar terms to describe it, including:

  • Fluency (number of ideas generated)
  • Originality and imagination (unusual, unique, novel ideas)
  • Elaboration (ability to explain ideas in detail)
  • Flexibility, curiosity, resistance to closure (ability to generate multiple solutions)
  • Complexity (detail and implications of ideas; recognition of patterns, similarities and differences)
  • Risk taking (willingness to be wrong and to admit it)

Barriers to creativity can be cultural (Am I supposed to stick my neck out?), emotional (Perhaps I can’t do this), or related to language and field (We don’t use metaphors here, we use data). Heuristics, or techniques for thinking, can offer ways around these barriers.

This resonated with me probably because it supports the theory that I outline in my book, Born Creative, that everyone has this innate ability. I believe the we all, including you, are born with this aptitude for “little c, or everyday creativity.”

What do you think?

This post was originally published in by Harry Hoover

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