What is ‘creativity’?

CreativityCreativity is difficult to define however an increasing amount of academic attention has turned to explore its various dimensions. The most significant of these contributions are from George Kneller (1965) and John Howkins (2001).

They explain how creativity can be view as ‘the person’, ‘the act itself’, ‘the environment’ and the ‘actual output’ created. Creative outputs include process, theories to well-defined inventions, artworks, music and poetry. However creative outputs are ever-expanding as it includes the complexities of the ‘inner states’ of the creative person’.

The difficultly of defining creativity, is itself encompassing of the many elements at play. Kneller quotes Louis Fliegler from the ‘Dimensions of the Creative Process’

All individuals are creative in diverse ways and to different degrees. The nature of creativity remains the same whether one is producing a new game or a symphony….Creativity is within the realm of each individual depending upon the area of expression and capability of the individual

The influential American psychologist Carl R. Rogers recognises a similar viewpoint adding that creativity is;

the tendency to express and activate all the capacities of the organism, to the extent that such activation enhances the organism or the self

Kneller’s book The Art & Science of Creativity explains how definitions of creativity fall into four categories.

Defining creativity

  1. Creativity may be considered from the standpoint of the ‘persons who creates, that is, in terms of physiology and temperament, including personal attitudes, habits, and values.
  2. The Mental processes – motivation, perception, learning, thinking and communicating – that the act of creating calls into play.
  3. Environmental and cultural influences.
  4. Creative outputs – production such as theories, inventions, paintings, carvings and poems etc.

More recent research into the definition of creativity has focused on a mental and emotional process – an approach that is much more complex because it relies on the ‘inner states’ of the creative person’. Creativity is complex and for me it involves heightened sense of ‘curiosity’ ‘problem solving’ ‘receptiveness to new ideas’ and ‘originality’. I have enjoyed the work of Arthur Koestler the Act of Creation (1964) whose central thesis is that;

all creative processes share a common pattern, called bisociation which is the connecting of previously unrelated levels of experience or frames of reference. Creativity is  a fusion in a new intellectual synthesis

Creativity is not easy to define and why would it be. Creativity is complex encompassing many interchangeable elements including process, environment, output and the most mysterious of all elements, the ‘inner states’ of the creative person.