One of the broadest definitions of creativity considers it to be the “ability to generate ideas.” In this sense, for Mackinnon “creativity corresponds to the capacity of an individual’s creative potential to act in unique and original patterns.” Parnes also emphasizes this aspect and defines creativity as “the ability to find relationships between ideas previously unrelated and that manifest through new schemes, experiences, or new products.”
The concept of competition brings us to performance in execution. Indeed, McClelland defines it as “a personal characteristic that can be evaluated and allows higher-performing employees to differentiate themselves from average employees.” That ability is directly related to knowledge, attitudes, and skills. All of that is involved in creativity: the information as a source of stimulus, the creative attitude that will spark motivation, and the ability to generate ideas that teach in an entertaining and practical manner.
The interesting aspect of this definition is that it brings the concept of “competition” into the equation, with creativity adding value. Therefore, on that basis, individuals able to generate ideas from any stimulus would be considered to have the skill of creativity. So, can creativity be developed? Can we all be creative? That depends on your predisposition, intentions, and attitude.
Creative talent consists of adopting an open sensitivity to perceive beyond what our eyes see and what our other senses feel. In the words of William Blake it is something akin to being able “to see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower.” That is why, without forgetting the above-mentioned quality, De la Torre defines creativity as the “ability and attitude to generate new ideas and communicate them.” Stressing this creative “state,” the definition put forth by Pereira is pertinent, as it is one of the most accurate:
Being creative is not a specific act in a specific moment, but rather a continuous state of “being the creator” of existence itself in an original response… It is that ability to manage existence itself, to make decisions “from the gut,” perhaps supported by external stimuli, hence their originality.
Developing new ideas and knowledge requires thinking skills characteristic of the restless, to feed their curiosity and respond to the everyday or deep perplexities constantly arising over time. That is where the art of wondering lies. Questions are the gateway to creativity. They lead to searching and reflection so as to learn from and transform our environment and even ourselves. Asking questions, wanting to know, is the best driver of effective activity. Though separated by centuries, Socrates and Einstein both recognized that questions are the main nourishment of intelligence. As Rudyard Kipling put it, “I keep six honest serving men, They taught me all I knew; Their names are What and Why and When, And How and Where and Who.”
The tendency to ask questions about how to overcome an existing issue (how can we design a better product? Why does this utensil work so slowly? How can we perfect it?, etc.) involve the predisposition to streamline the creative process in order to seek and find different alternatives for transformation and improvement. This is an attitude typical of people who think creatively: they are constantly seeing opportunities to change something for the better; they also discover opportunities for development, creation, and business that others simply do not notice. And it is not only about asking questions, but asking the right questions; as occurred with Edward Jenner, who discovered the smallpox vaccine by changing the question “why do people get smallpox?” to “why do milkmaids not get smallpox?” or with Henry Ford, who invented the assembly line by inverting the question “how do we get people to work?” to “how do we get work to people?” With regard to the way questions are formulated, in order for questions to work as unusual stimuli to encourage people to think differently, Bikinshaw, Bouquet, and Barsoux propose analogical questions such as the following: “How could we make our retail bank more like your favorite restaurant?” That is a challenge, to be sure. In short, it’s about shifting the focus, changing perspectives, looking at it in another light.
When we refer to originality the importance of being very sure of oneself and fully trusting our own ideas, even if they do not correspond to the ideas of the masses, cannot be understated.
In any case, individual creative ideas must be supported by an environment (company, school, market, society in general) open to innovation. Nevertheless, in the event that they are not appropriately accepted, someone with true creative talent (beyond entrepreneurship) is not usually dissuaded from taking on new challenges.
Moreover, although there may be people more predisposed to creativity, we know that this tendency may be strengthened as well as one’s attitude towards it. Guy Claxton proposes four strategies to develop creative thinking: detection, ability to concentrate, poetic sensitivity, and paying attention. Each of these is related to how we see things, our perspective:
·Detection refers to the development of perception, through which one makes sense of the world, expands one’s understanding of the world’s nuances, unpacks one’s own perspectives, and sows the seeds of new questions.
·The ability to concentrate entails the activation of an internal gaze favoring the ability to be introspective and believe in oneself.
·Poetic sensitivity entails a metaphorical view of reality, an invocation of universal symbols, which expands one’s understanding, opens the mind, and awakens the imagination.
·In this case, paying attention encourages a critical view of reality and oneself, allowing one to read between the lines, see beyond appearances, doubt one’s own convictions, and question and rectify stereotypes and erroneous conceptions.
In short, as Ken Robinson has underscored in his interviews and talks, one can innovate at any age and under any circumstance. The only requirement is will.
Birkinshaw, J., Bouquet, C. and Barsoux, J.L. (2011). The Five Myths of Innovation. Harvard Deusto Business Review. May. Ediciones Deusto. pg. 12-24.
Claxton, G. (1999). Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind. Barcelona: Urano.
De La Torre, S. (2003). Dialogando con la creatividad. De la identificación a la creatividad paradójica [Dialoguing with Creativity. From Identification to Paradoxical Creativity]. Barcelona: Octaedro.
Mackinnon, D.W. (1962). The Nature and Nurture of Creative Talent. American Psychologist. 1. pg. 484-495.
McClelland, D.C. (1973). Testing for Competence Rather Than for “Intelligence”. The American Psychologist. Jan. 28 (1). pg. 1-14.
Parnes, S. (1962). Can Creativity Be Increased. En Fames, S. J. and Harding, F. J. (eds.). A Source Book for Creative Thinking. New York: Scribner. Pereira, G. M. (1997). Educación en Valores. Metodología e innovación educativa. [Education in Values. Educational Methodology and Innovation]. Mexico: Editorial Trillas.