Basics on creativity

There are many definitions for creativity. Last time we checked, there were over two billion results when searching the definition online. However, usually, creativity is understood as the use of our brain capabilities to create something new. If you listen to Rex Jung, a neuropsychologist studying creativity, or other science people or academia, you will learn that creativity is not only about creating something new or coming up with a new idea, but this has to be also useful in a societal context. And when you put creativity into practice, to solve a problem or respond to people’s needs, in a way that was not tried before – this is called innovation.

When you work with young people and you try to enhance their creativity, usually you face these two myths they have about creativity:

  • Only some people are creative;
  • Only some ideas are creative.

Through the workshop scenarios, we propose in this Training Toolkit you will help young people to go over these myths and learn that everyone is creative in his/her own style, and that not only disruptive, revolutionary ideas are creative. Through this Training Toolkit we promote and support the creative diversity model presented by Penn State professors, in their Coursera course – Creativity, Innovation and Change. The model is built on the following four principles:

  1. Everyone is creative
    Not only artists or designers or architects are creative, engineers are also creative. New ideas with a societal use are coming up in the mind of everyone, every day. There are not such things like exclusive creative sectors.
  2. We are not all creative in the same way
    No surprise. We are not all the same, so we also have different ways of being creative, and this diversity is given by the variables presented in the following principle.
  3. Our creative diversity is described using four variables:
    a) Creative level
    The creative level is given by the amount of skills, knowledge and experience we accumulate. More knowledge, more experience and more skills make us more creative… of course, ideas do not come from nowhere, but from all these things we gain through learning experiences.
    b) Creative style (adaption versus innovation continuum; more or less structured thinking)
    Everyone possesses creative force, but this varies in the style of expression of this creativity. There is a continuum (see Kirton’s KAI model), ranging from a largely adaptive to a strongly innovative creativity style. The people who have a more adaptive style focus more on making good ideas better, developing them in the existing framework. Those who are at the innovative end tend to redefine problems and establish new frameworks of operation. Usually, the innovative people come up with many ideas, while the adaptive people will improve them and make them work.
    c) Motive
    The more we like something, the more creative we will be. It is all about the energy we have around the things we like to do, we need to do or we have to do. 
    d) Opportunity (how we accept or reject opportunities)
    Then, creativity it is also about how we respond to opportunities. We use creativity and enhance creativity and come up with new ideas when we accept opportunities or challenges.
  4. There is no combination of all those four variables that is ideal all the time. What could we add to this? The model is diverse and so are we.

Through the workshops on creativity and innovation, young people will also learn about the principles of creativity, in order to improve their process of generating new ideas with a purpose. Here we summarize the principles presented by Mobilisation Lab in their Campaign Accelerator (Create chapter):

  • Quantity is a condition for quality
  • For obtaining better ideas, we need to generate more and more ideas.
  • Build on each other’s ideas
  • Collaborative work is recommended in the idea generating process, as we have such diverse creativity on that creative style continuum.
  • Think big/encourage wild ideas
  • We should try to get out of the “frameworks”, and think of impossible things.
  • Postpone critical thinking and judgment
  • The idea-generation moment is not the moment to judge those ideas. At that moment, we need more and more ideas.
  • Listen to other people’s ideas
  • Everyone should contribute, and then we all benefit from the creative diversity.
  • Get all your ideas out
  • Let all ideas to come out, even when they sound stupid. That stupid thought might trigger or lead to the next big idea.
  • Be visual — use your entire brain
  • We should use in the process also visual tools, like drawing – these tools will activate other parts of our brains, so more ideas will come out and these will be more diverse.

If you want to learn more about creativity and the use of creativity for innovation, we recommend to take the PennState Coursera course on  Creativity, Innovation and Change:

Also, listen to this wonderful interview with Rex Jung, the neuropsychologist who studies creativity in people, from the neuroscience point of view:

Finally, you could also read this book: Creative Confidence, by Tom and David Kelley,