Just about the hardest thing for a psychologist to define, model, or synthesize.

Creativity seems to come from nowhere and everywhere in the mind -- a kind of ineffable place where wonderful somethings are made out of nothing.

This strange phenomenon often leads artists to believe in some kind of higher power or force, or to inspire a sense of wonder.

See intercourse for William Gibson's definition.

Creativity is the ability to come up with ways of doing things that satisfy multiple conflicting goals. For example, the poet must express his ideas without violating his aesthetic goals (for example, being too direct, too obvious, too crude, or too dull). This is very difficult and requires complex problem solving skills. Indeed, creativity is the superlative of problem solving.

Like everything else, it can be learned and taught, but this is not simple. And with all learning, it is more a matter of acquiring the ability to look at a problem in a different way rather than memorization of fact.

After reading a lot of Edward de Bono’s works, I am less than happy with the general term 'creativity'. There are many reasons why. I shall outline them.
  1. The word 'create' means bringing into being something new. But there are too many people just adding junk, or messes. Too many cute little Goths writing poetry that’s been written before, too many aspiring painters who think it’s creative to copy someone else’s painting. That’s not creative; it’s actually the complete opposite. It’s just that ‘poetry’ and ‘painting’ are known as ‘creative fields’. But simply because you dabble in them does not make you creative. It’s not creative if it’s been done.

    So we must add to the definition “bringing into being something new”, the phrase “…and of value”. This covers artistic creativity. Yet still, many artists are not creative in the sense of 'change'. It becomes difficult to make progress when we are linked to the artistic model every time we talk about creativity. This is one of the reasons why de Bono invented the term 'lateral thinking' in 1967. (Lateral thinking is concerned with changing concepts and perceptions).

  2. Creativity has become in this new age a key skill that is required more and more so. Most people have not noticed but we are already moving out of the information age and into the “concept age” or “idea age”. Concepts are the 'genes' of ideas. There was a time when information was the bottleneck. Now we can get all the information we want, but that does not create value unless there is a specific need. The new bottleneck is ‘thinking’, and creative thinking in particular. Progress in technology will provide very little increase in value. Technology is already way ahead of the value we ask it to provide. The emphasis is beginning to shift to value concepts. We need to develop the value concepts directly. Technology can then make them happen. Yet we spend millions of dollars and hours of thinking time on technology when the key area of value creation is largely neglected. It is deliberate creativity that will fashion the value concepts we so badly need.

  3. Traditional brainstorming is very weak and more useful in the advertising world than elsewhere. Its very existence has prevented us from making progress in serious creativity. Edward de Bono has an interesting analogy:
    "An ordinary person is walking along a road. Someone ties that person up tightly with a rope. A violin is now produced. The tied up person cannot possibly play the violin. So we cut the rope. Does that make the person a violinist? Of course not. Yet that is precisely what we have done about creativity for the last fifty years. We have believed that if a person is inhibited then that person cannot be creative. So if we liberated that person (brainstorming) then creativity would follow. This is no more logical than expecting the untied person to become a violinist."

  4. There exists a belief that some people are born creative and others can only envy them. This is ridiculous. Creativity is a skill which anybody can acquire once they set their minds towards doing so. Creativity is not a mystifying talent or divine inspiration. It is the operation of information in a self-organising information system which forms asymmetric patterns. Once we understand this then we can build deliberate tools of creativity. These are the tools of lateral thinking such as: provocation, random entry etc.

  5. It is necessary to distinguish between creativity and 'crazitivity'. Far too many people believe that being zany and off-the-wall instantly means they are being creative. But while painting your face crazy colours may be unusual, it is certainly not creative, or useful. This is “show off” creativity, advocated by those who have a motivation to be creative but do not know how. Any creative idea is new and different. So people automatically assume that any different idea is creative. But difference is easy and may have little or no value.
What is it to be creative?
In my mind, to be creative is to naturally be able to think outside the box and find a different path, that to at least you, makes some sort of sense. It should just click. If it doesn't come to you, but instead you must think for some time of ideas that seem weird or new, you have ingenuity and just wish you were creative. Creativity and "giftedness" are actually learning disabilities.

Why do people want to be creative?
I really don't know. If I had to guess I would say they think it is something special and want attention. The creative mind is hard to understand, and students and workers alike may find it ward to describe concepts to others that are not on their same plain of though. While they may seem wrong to everyone else, in their mind they are right. In many cases, when you tell a creative person why they are wrong, they will think "that's what I just said!!!". People who try too hard often say things that make no sense to them but are in some way related to the subject. Some people find that they must tell people that they are creative as if it were a title of honor, but, in my reality at least, it is a pain to try to decode the rest of the world.

What do I do to understand or help a creative person?
A great start to understanding a creative person would be to ask them to rephrase, simplify, or give the logic behind what they said, wrote, or did. Think about what they are saying. You might have to draw a mental picture or think about an object from another perspective. Creative people are stubborn like this, they can't just right out tell you what they are thinking in words you would understand, but then again they might not understand how you would think of it.
"Think outside the box."

Normal:
       


     #############
     #           #
     #  YOU ARE  #    The good stuff is here
     #   HERE    #
     #           #
     #           #
     #############

Creative:
       


     #############
     #           #
     #   THINK   #    You are here
     #  YOU ARE  #    You want to be here
     #    HERE   #    You leave so you can get here
     #           #
     #############
                      

You end somewhere entirely different, perhaps over there
Creativity is not a thing, creativity is a process. I've never been walking down the street when suddenly I tripped over a creativity somebody left lying around.

There are no doubt numerous ways one can look at creativity. Some people see creativity as a synthesis of old forms, arising from some inexplicable place. Others view creativity as the ability to think outside the box. Yet others see creativity as merely the process of change. Creativity makes use of the fact that the map is not the territory in order to create new maps of reality.

Between all of these perspectives there are three constants:

  • Putting things together
  • Taking things apart
  • Keeping things the same
Along these lines, it is noteworthy that in Hinduism there are three main Gods.
  • Brahma, the God of Creation
  • Shiva, the God of Destruction
  • Vishnu, the God of Sustenance
In this sense, Brahma puts things together, Shiva takes things apart and Vishnu keeps things as they are.

Hegel's Theory of Dialectic contains these elements as well: "thesis-antithesis-synthesis"

From the perspective of thermodynamics, entropy is always increasing in the universe. When order is increased somewhere, it must decrease somewhere else. When something is put together, something else must be taken apart. When something is 'created', something else must be destroyed.

It is therefore that I propose that Creativity, in its traditional sense, can be defined as the process of taking something apart and putting something else together out its constituent elements or new elements.

Anything can be taken apart. A physical object can be deconstructed and rearranged in a new way. A world-view, paradigm, idea, belief system, etc. can be broken down and give way to the building up of a new world-view, paradigm, idea, etc. When an old way of thinking is deconstructed and something new is constructed to take its place, this is creativity.

Creativity strategy:

Psychologists using the model of Neurolinguistic Programming have developed the following cognitive model for creativity by studying the process Walt Disney used in his creative endeavors.

  1. Step one: Make three circles on the floor using three different colors.
  2. Step two: Label one circle "fantasy", label one circle "criticism" and label the last circle "realistic".
  3. Step three: Step into the fantasy circle and allow your thoughts to wander to the fantastic. There's no need to judge any idea, simply let the ideas flow freely without stopping or constricting them. Step out of the circle and write down your ideas.
  4. Step four: Step into the criticism circle and allow yourself to objectively critique the ideas from this place. What is good about it? What is bad about it? How will people receive this idea? Step out of the circle and write down your criticisms.
  5. Step five: Step into the realistic circle and ask yourself how this can be translated into the real world, and if it can be translated into the real world. Step out of the circle and record your thoughts.
  6. Step six: Take steps to complete your project using your new perspectives.
I was once given an excellent definition of creativity by a trainer:
Creativity is the ability to combine things in a way no one else has ever thought of before.
Now, consider that for a while. You'll notice is that it is postmodern and that it is inextricably connected to the Neisser's Perceptual Circle.
We live in a postmodern world where our ideas are always influenced by others, perhaps someone has even figured them out already. Combine that idea with Neisser's Perceptual Circle which states that all our new conceptions are influenced by our earlier conceptions, rendering us less open to new ideas.
The definition arises naturally from these basic principles. There is no known mechanism for creating totally new schemes of thought - therefore all we can do is combine old ideas in new ways.

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