What is Creativity?
Creativity or creative thinking is the ability to produce valued outcomes that are both novels i.e. original, unexpected, and appropriate i.e. pro-social and rational. It provides new knowledge and new inventions which help to improve the quality of human life.
Creativity is a part of our life. Creative people can look at the same thing as everyone else but see something different. What makes people creative? Research suggests that remembering information, association, synthesis, transformation, and categorical reduction are the primary factors in creativity (Ward, Smith, and Vaid, 1977). We come across to create ideas, every day.
For example, use of a new sentence, providing appropriate suggestions to overcome the difficult situation, etc. These everyday creative ideas are termed “mundane” creativity. The everyday creativity occurs with respect to problems for which our past knowledge and experience provide us valuable cues. The other exceptional creativity describes the new inventions, which require thinking “outside of the box” of the individual mind, different (Perkins, 1977). It describes having no knowledge of where and how to start with. Prize winners can be put in these categories.
Creativity is extensively studied by psychologists. Social psychologists have focused on personality traits and environmental conditions that either encourage or discourage creativity. Other researchers have focused on the intrinsic motivation to be creative. A modern approach known as the “Confluence Approach” suggests that multiple components must coverage in an individual to be creative.
According to Lubart (1994), creativity requires a confluence of six distinct characteristics:
- Intellectual Abilities: The ability to see problems in different new ways, apply, solve, and convince others.
- Knowledge Base: Must have a firm foundation about the subject matter to move further. Creativity is influenced by knowledge, organization, and retrieval access of the information stored in long-term memory. They show broad ideas whenever needed.
- Style of Thinking: Ability to transfer locally and globally. Capacity to use analogies or similarities with other problems that have been solved in the past. The mental quickness to discover new facts and relationships among objects and as a result solutions to problems and events are succeeded.
- Personality Attributes: Traits as self-monitoring, risk-taking, conscientiousness, high energy, intuitiveness, independence, self-acceptance, etc. lead to creativeness.
- Right Atmosphere: Time and supporting situation to think in novel ways. Creative people do much when provided independence, an effective atmosphere, and brainstorming sessions.
- Motivation: Persistent, hard-working, task-focused, when all these conditions prevail high level of creative thinking is more likely to appear. Almost every major creative thinker has come across obstacles, their willingness and undivided attention to face problems lead them to success. A creative thinker may be task focusing or goal focusing. A task focusing motivator energizes a person to work and keeps the person’s attention on the task. The motivation behind it is intrinsic, while goal focusing motivator is extrinsic, focusing on rewards on work. Creativity seems a balanced mix of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors.
Is Creativity Innate or Learned?
Cognitive researchers found that abstract rules of logic and reasoning can be taught which suggests that creative thinkers are made not born (Field Man, Coats & Schwartzberg, 1994, Halpern, 1998, Levy, 1997).
It is well-known fact that creative people can look at the same thing as everyone else but see something different. Creative thinking often flourishes under the right mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Take the example of Thomas Edison, who invented filaments for the light bulb. He conducted more than 2000 experiments and found one that would not burn out quickly. The willingness to take risks and mistakes is the quality of creative thinkers.
Personal, as well as situational factors, work in creativity. Personal factors include hard work, undivided attention, concentration, willingness to take obstacles, dedication, devotion, and so on. Thye can work well in situations where ambiguity, complexity, or lack of symmetry is present. Situational factors include humorous atmosphere, playfulness, and arrangement of things. When people feel well, are in good humor, or after having good meal positive thoughts come up into their mind.
Independence, brainstorming sessions, and the ability to transfer knowledge are related to creativity. Research indicates that creativity can be studied scientifically. People can be creative in one area (art, writing, dance, and so on) but not in another. Many of the new technology advancements prove this fact. However, the role of biological factors can not be ignored.
Steps In Creative Thinking
Creative thinkers apply different strategies while solving problems. A study of Graham Wallas (1926) through interviews, questionnaires with outstanding creative thinkers pointed out that creative thinking is possible with certain steps. He found that though there are individual differences in the ways they approached the problem, creative problem solving typically preceded in 4 ways: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification.
The first stage to formulate the problem in which all facts and materials are collected, recalled, unnecessary are avoided for the new solution. Preparation is done to enhance the good understanding of elements of the targeted goal. For example, writing a book, the writer collects all possible materials connected to it. The writer may inscribe something, scratches out what he has written, and starts over again and destroy that again.
Likewise, making a new architect design a building a creative thinker needs facts to collect, finding out the pros-and-cons of a similar building, adding new ideas, through discussion, literature, etc. Einstein’s concept of relativity probably would not have occurred to him if he had not advanced study in both physics and mathematics.
The second step in creative thinking is incubation. It describes the period of rest. Creative thinker finds that the problem can not be solved easily. It takes weeks, months of patience, and concentrated effort. Failing to reach the solution after the preparation the thinker either deliberately or involuntarily sets the problem aside for some time. This is the incubation period. There is the absence of overt activity and seems no progressing accruing, however past experiences, association, knowledge, are working behind the scene.
The idea behind incubation is that the thinker believes in putting the problem aside but it is actually continuing to think about it unconsciously. Some authors have suggested that unconscious incubation is more creative than conscious thought. Wallas (1926) used the term incubation to compare the creative solution to an egg that needs incubation before it is hatched, that is, the creative solution needs time to incubate.
In the third stage of creative thinking, the critical insights arrive abruptly or at unexpected times and places. There is an ‘aha’ experience. Reports of creativity emphasize these sudden flashes. The material seems to organize itself because the ideas come smoothly and rapidly. A sudden inspiration came to Archimedes (287-212 BC) when he was trying to determine whether the king’s crown was made of solid gold or had been adulterated with silver.
One day he was in his bathtub he noticed the water displaced by his body. This led him to sudden insight, he jumped out of his bathroom and ran naked through the streets shouting “Eureka” (I have found it). Later on, this principle was used to sail ships. Researchers argue that time away from the problem is beneficial because it removes fatigue, frustrations, and unproductive mental sets. This allows the thinker to forget or lose interest in some unnecessary materials which seemed good. And helped to select the set that is creative with the passage of time.
Testing the correctness of the solution is the last step in creative thinking. It is necessary to evaluate and test the ideas. It is necessary to determine whether a new idea is appropriate to apply, correct, and workable. This stage evaluates the solution that needs to be satisfactory. Sometimes insight proves to be wrong. That makes the thinker again go back to the beginning of the creative thinking process. Others need a simple modification. Think of the Novel prize winner’s inventions, will they go for verification?