What is Creativity?

In November a student asked me to participate in a survey as part of an assignment he was completing for one of his classes. I agreed, and, off the cuff, provided the following responses to his four questions.

1) What, in your opinion, is creativity?
In my opinion, (and without looking up the definition!) creativity is one of the abilities that higher thinking creatures possess. It occurs as the result of an intellectual process. That process involves many steps, but can sometimes seem to occur spontaneously.

a. What is the problem?
When facing a situation, or problem, the first step one takes in the creative process is to analyze that problem and reach an understanding of the problem itself.

b. What do I know about this?
With an understanding of the problem itself one can draw on prior knowledge and experience to reach a solution. If one stops the process at this point, and many creatures do, the solution reached will be limited to what is already known, already done.

c. What can I discover about this?
Taking the process further involves investigating one’s environment, also known as research. This step allows the individual to discover resources that may further enlighten both the problem and potential solutions. Through this step, the individual also increases their bank of prior knowledge and experience.

d. How can I use this information?
The research is only helpful if one analyzes it to discover relationships between the new information, the old information and the problem. This step, sometimes called “brainstorming” is where the individual applies the new information to reach solutions that are new to them.

e. Is this the best I can do?
Evaluating the solutions is an important step in the process. Through evaluation one determines which solution(s) will work best for the given problem.

Under stress or in emergencies, individuals compress this process into a split second reaction. Under normal circumstances, individuals have plenty of time to explore and compare numbers of possible solutions to any given problem and, through trial and error, reach a (hopefully) successful decision.

2) Would you say you believe creativity comes from a biological source or some other source?
I think that the ability for creativity is biological in nature. However, environmental factors are partially responsible for determining which individuals excel in that ability and for what purpose.

3) Are creativity and imagination the same?
No, not at all.

4) If you don’t believe this, what is imagination?
I consider imagination to be the ability to form images in the mind. Can you imagine yourself sitting on the grass with the sun warming your skin while a light breeze gently blows through your hair? That does not require creativity. Creativity and imagination work in synchrony.

I formulated those answers around my ideas about creativity as a very general term. Today, I decided to begin to investigate writings on creativity (in part to validate my answers!) assuming that there must be volumes written on the subject. Of course, there are volumes! Here begins an effort to undestand what has been written and to invite discussion in a non-scholarly forum.
So far (one hour into the research) I have at least discovered some writings about creativity as a definable process, which seem to support my own initial answers. Further, not everyone accepts the various “process” models, including Gestalt philosopher Wertheimer who considers the process linear and continuous, rather than segmented.

Enough for now…

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.