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December 14, 2018

How to look at art: What is creativity?

What is creativity?
What is creativity?

We have entered a new age. Technology is advancing our society at an unprecedented rate. This increases the complexity of life and work and demands new skills, including creativity. 

Creativity is what now separates people, businesses and societies that are prepared for the 21st century and those that are not. There is no other human activity that brings us more value, opportunity and change. Yet, creativity is an elusive thing for many of us. We are not sure what creativity is, or how we can become more creative.

Creativity is not just the arts. Being creative does not mean you know how to draw, sing, dance, or play a musical instrument. Associating creativity with the arts and artistic creativity muddles our understanding and the meaning of creativity.

In short, creativity or creative thinking is our ability to identify problems and generate new effective solutions. It is rooted in three key capacities: observing, visualising and connecting. The capacity to observe is seeing problems from various perspectives and dimensions, to visualise - is to imagine, to form ideas in the mind. And, the more creative the individuals are the more able they are to connect knowledge across a wide range of disciplines.

Creativity and intelligence share the same cognitive process. They differ only by the outcome: the outcome of creativity is something novel, new, or original. Intelligence is necessary for creativity but high intelligence is not sufficient condition for high creativity (Ellis Paul Torrance). In other words, intelligence does not automatically mean creative thinking.

Albert Einstein called creativity ‘the true intelligence’. Edward De Bono, the creativity authority, said it is ‘the highest form of intelligence’. Resourcefulness, inventiveness, innovation and ‘outside-box’ thinking are the synonyms of creativity.

Neuroscientists now know that creative thinking exerts a more powerful effect than biological factors in shaping our brain development. For example, our IQ has climbed 24 points since 1918. This is not due to natural selection: the time-frame is too short for that. This is due to the more creative ways our brains process constantly increasing amounts of information. It could be said that creativity drives our evolutionary development.


Small ‘c’ and big ‘C’ creativity

Nobel laureate for economics Herbert Simon said ‘creativity is your ability to recognise the novelty’. Novelty, however, can vary from something that is new to a person, to a breakthrough with global implications. Therefore, it is helpful to think of small ‘c’ and big ‘C’ creativity. Small ‘c’ creativity solves everyday problems in life or business in the ways that are new in a personal sense, regardless if others made similar innovations. Big ‘C’ creativity is producing something historically new, such as major scientific discoveries, or great works of art. Big ‘C’ creativity is relatively rare and exhibited by people who are professionally creative, the creative geniuses.


Thinking ‘inside the box’

To understand creativity is to understand how creative people think and act. People who are creative think ‘what can be’, rather than ‘what is’. This approach instills valuable attitudes and work ethics, and enables them to lead others with new ideas and vision.

People who lack creativity base their thinking on existing concepts and stereotypes. They do not think, they ‘recognise’: when they are deciding what to do, they search their memory and repeat the past choices. They put information into ‘boxes’ and get attached to them in their need for certainty. ‘Boxes’ become their logic system: whatever new is offered gets compared with the ‘boxes’ and rejected if it does not match. Such thinking can work in a stable environment, but our world is not stable, it changes rapidly and constantly. We need creativity to adapt and survive. 


Alla Tkachuk founded Mobile Art School in Kenya. Become ‘Kenya Patron of the Arts’, contact Alla for more information on [email protected]

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