Creativity Myths

There are many misconceptions about the creative process. Many of these myths perpetuate false notions about creativity and persuade many individuals to label themselves as “non creative.” It’s really a shame because this keeps them from attempting to flow with their creative energies and blocks their imaginations. In my book, Creativity: How to Catch Lightning in a Bottle, I discuss several creativity myths. In this blog, I’m going to discuss one of these myths. I’ll discuss others in later blogs.

Myth #1. To be creative, you must be Totally Original.

Actually, originality is only one measure of creativity. In fact, creativity can occur without much originality. Noted researcher and psychologist, J.P. Guilford, defined four ways in which we can measure an individual’s creativity and he developed criteria for each measure.

A. Originality- An individual is original if his or her work is unusual or differs substantially from the norm. If a product (not necessarily tangible) is too much like other products, the work lacks originality. However, if it is too unusual and original, it may be rejected as “weird” or, as history has shown, blasphemous. Nevertheless, some degree of originality is normally desirable. To what degree, depends on various factors such as the target audience and whether the unusualness is offensive.

B. Fluency-This measures how prolific a person is. A creative person may be someone who produces tons of songs, works of art, architectural designs or business plans all of which look pretty much like all his or her other works. He may not be original but he can, nevertheless, be said to be highly creative. He is fluent and prolific.

C. Flexibility- Another measure of a person’s creativity is her flexibility. She may not produce highly original works, but may be somewhat prolific (fluent) and her products differ markedly from each other. Without being highly original or fluent, she may still be considered highly creative in the realm of flexibility. She is not stuck on the same pattern or design and, although her works are not highly unusual, they all differ in some way from each other. In many way, this is a highly prized “talent” especially in today’s business world.

D. Elaboration- Guilford’s fourth measure of creativity is elaboration. This refers to the detail and specificity of the works. A creator’s work may be highly elaborate and contain a great deal of detail, complexity and specificity. She may only have a few such works and, thus, not be highly fluent, flexible or original. The work may be a detailed replica of some other work; thus, it may lack originality but excel in the quality of elaboration.

Guilford has given us an interesting way of looking at creativity. In fact, all these qualities may exist in the works of some individual that we perceive as highly creative. These four aspects of the creative process free us from the constraints of having to look at everything through the lens of originality.

These are not the only measure of creativity. There are other ways of looking at a creator’s work. Can you think of other measurements of an individual’s creative output? I would like to hear from you as to other measurements of creativity as well as good examples of the above measurement categories. I look forward to hearing from you.