Defining Creativity

On Growing Creative Kids, we talk a lot about creativity and how to nurture and inspire creativity in our children. Creativity, like most words, has different definitions and meanings. If you ask a hundred different people “What is creativity?” you will likely get one hundred different answers. I recently came across a great definition of Creativity that I thought we could look at and examine further. The definition is from a report called: “All our futures: Creativity, culture and education” from the the UK National Advisory Committee:

“First, they [the characteristics of creativity] always involve thinking or behaving imaginatively. Second, overall this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieving an objective.  Third, these processes must generate something original. Fourth, the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective.”

This definition provides four “Stepping Stones” for being successfully creative. It allows us to not only be creative but shows us How to be Creative, which I feel is an important distinction to make.  To quote Robert Fritz’s book “The Path of Least Resistance”:

“The most important developments in civilization have come through the creative process, but ironically, most people have not been taught to be creative.”

Lets look into the stepping stones, the creativity guideposts mentioned in the UK National Advisory Committee Quote.

Imagination – Without imagination there is no creativity. This is why it is so vital to encourage imagination in children from a very young age. This is why there is value in make believe and Role Playing Games.

Purpose – Imagination must have a purpose, it must be directed to achieving an objective. This is where learning to plan goals becomes important to creative success. Goal planning brings imagination into reality and gives concrete direction and focus. I covered goal planning in a previous post here; if you simply state your purpose before you begin brainstorming or defining your problem, you send the message to your brain that your imagination and creativity should focus on this topic. This is the difference between day dreaming and conscious creating.

Originality – Some would argue that there are no true original ideas, simply original connections. If we think of creativity in terms of combinations and connections, it dramatically expands the scope. As our knowledge base expands, we have more and more new interactions and experiences just waiting to be combined into new and original ideas. The wonderful thing is you can apply this sort of exploratory creativity to practically every area of your life.

The kitchen is one great place to come up with original creations. Explore with different and new flavor combinations the next time you are cooking with your kids. Take a simple base – a basic muffin batter, cookie dough, or a simple food like Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches– and allow your kids to make creative, original additions. Some will not work but some might become new favorites. It is a great way to combine and explore!

Asking questions is a great way to encourage original connections. Sometimes asking “Why?” is the best catalyst there is.

Value – What makes a creative idea valuable is very subjective. Is value measured in profits and how much money you make? Is value measured in the grades you get? Personally, I find value in the creative process and the journey. You might reach the end and discover your idea isn’t actually very useful. Perhaps your original objective needs refining or some adjustment, but there’s definite value in practicing the process and learning along the way. There is often more value in in failure, if you are willing to try again – I feel that a large part of the value in a creative process is learning how to test ideas, take risks, fail, and try again.

This is only one of many definitions of creativity, we can learn from it and be inspired by it. We are, however, always changing, so should the definitions of the words we live by and aspire to. How do you define Creativity?


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