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Definition of creativity
Creativity is a concept that indicates higher-order thinking. Barbara Clark defines it as the process by which human beings synthesize all their functions. This normally ranges from one’s intuitions, actions, cognition, or functions. Creative individuals are those who possess the ability to look at a situation in a different light. They opt to change their understanding of reality by engaging their imaginations. The concept may sometimes involve dreaming or thinking outside the box. (Clark, 2007)
The Webster dictionary also defines this term as one’s ability to create and therefore bring into existence/ produce/ invest in a new form through one’s imagination to bring out something new. Other psychologists believe that creativity is the appearance of a novel and relational product that is created as a result of an individual’s imagination. Besides that, others have also defined it as the emergence of a composition that is both valuable and new. Lastly, some authors have asserted that creativity is a thought process that enables one to form and express oneself. All these definitions contribute towards a greater understanding of the phenomenon of creativity because its interpretation varies depending on the field of study. This implies that there are several levels upon which creativity can be defined and these include intellectual, social, cognitive, economic, and spiritual.
It should be noted that there is a distinct difference between innovation and creativity. Creativity largely dwells on the process of generating new ideas, actions, and strategies while innovation entails both generations of the ideas and their application in a specified field or context.
Creativity as a process
Creative thought can be better understood by dissecting it into two parts which include both divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking occurs when a certain party thinks of very diverse and elaborate ideas with great fluency while at the same time doing this at a relatively high speed. Examples here include brainstorming and ideating. On the other hand, the creative process may occur through divergent thinking which refers to the application of logic and analytical skills to a certain situation by narrowing down one’s ideas. (Pirto, 2008).
The creative process normally contains both these elements as they are not mutually exclusive. In this regard, when one is being creative, one must first engage in divergent thinking where they produce several ideas. Shortly after, one must then narrow down these ideas through the process of convergence. Creative problem solving, therefore, requires the creative individual to shift sides from the divergent patterns into convergent ones in order to arrive at the most tenable explanation to a certain situation or problem.
In another perspective, creativity can also be understood as the process of merging three important aspects of thought and they include synthetic ability, practical ability, and analytic ability. The synthetic ability aspect is the first step in the creative process because this is where an individual often makes connections between various things. More often than not, these connections are less obvious to the common man and in certain circumstances, they do lead to new discoveries. Analytical ability in the creative process entails an evaluation, appraisal, and selection of ideas, possibilities, or actions. The latter aspect often dwells with a consideration of certain courses of action and their implications and it largely encompasses the critiquing element.
On the other hand, the practical ability segment often takes the creative process to the next level. This is the stage at which a creative thinker then finds applications for his or her ideas. In fact, the world is full of people with numerous ideas but because those individuals have not found a forum to apply their ideas, then they have been rendered useless. The creative process must be such that it involves selling one’s theories or postulations to others thus causing them to believe that a certain idea is worth being considered. In other words, the latter process involves transferring one’s ideas from abstract phenomena to useful products. One must therefore find a suitable audience for one’s ideas and convince them that their ideas are worth it. (Webb & Tolan, 2005).
While the latter stages indicate some of the technical aspects of the creative thought process, there is still another aspect that one must possess in order to be fully creative and this is tenacity. Creative people need not just be good thinkers and marketers of their ideas; they need to be patient and persistent enough to follow through with their visions and aspirations. This means that even though the general public may not meet eye to eye with the creative individual concerning a certain idea, that person should still remain true to his/her beliefs in his/her vision.
It should also be noted that the creative process may sometimes be understood through a systems model; this is also made up of three dimensions. The first is the creative domain which refers to the actual knowledge shred such as the visual arts. Secondly, this process is also governed by a field that encompasses all the gatekeepers of that domain such as critics, teachers, and other experts. Thirdly and most importantly, there is the actual person who utilizes the symbols of a certain domain like business, maths, engineering etc to form a new idea. Therefore the creative process must encompass all these aspects for it to be complete.
How to measure creativity
Creativity – like any other parameter- can be measured through several tests and it would be misleading to try and compare results from one test with those of another. Doing so would bring together unrelated elements of creativity and this would be inaccurate. Dr. Paul Torrance came up with standardized tests for measuring this concept. However, there are also other tests that aim at measuring different things like personality inventory, product judgments, interests and attitudes, divergent thinking, eminent people, achievements, and many others. It should be noted that intelligence tests are not synonymous with creativity tests because intelligence tests only deal with convergent thinking but cannot measure divergent thinking. This was an aspect that Torrance dealt with very adequately in his tests as he largely measures this element of the creative process. (Torrance, 1995)
There are two aspects covered by the Torrance tests and these include verbal and nonverbal forms. In the latter tests, the candidate must think creatively through the use of pictures while in the former category, candidates must use words. Both these two types are designed to assess four important parameters that include flexibility, fluency, elaboration, and originality. The advantage of these tests is that they can be applied in kindergarten all the way to graduate school. Nonverbal examination usually involves three types of activities; elaborating a single shape by drawing lines, drawing lines to complete a certain picture, and thirdly, drawing as many pictures as possible using the same shape. On the other hand, verbal assessments usually involve six challenges where participants are required to make guesses, think of alternative uses, or general questions. All these activities in either verbal or nonverbal are recorded and their scores tallied for elaboration, fluency, flexibility, and originality.
Among all other tests for creativity, Torrance tests have been described as some of the most valid ones on this subject. This is large because these tests have been used by different cultures and different nations of the world. After gathering information on their applications, other experts found that their reliability lies between 0.5 and 0.93. When one compares such levels of reliability with intelligence tests, it can be said that the reliability coefficients for Torrance’s tests are much higher. All in all, divergent thinking is the major point of focus. (Torrance, 1995)
Some critics have asserted that dwelling on divergent thinking means restricting creativity to just its cognitive aspects yet the process is more complex than that. In response to these assertions, the latter author claimed that cognitive aspects are the most important determinant of the creative process.
Another commonly known creativity measure is called the Guilford Battery test. This involves the assessment of ten parameters that include: types of people, making objects, hidden letters, the addition of decorations, making something out of another, production of figural classes, and others. These tests entail verbal and pictorial aspects but their validity has not been ascertained to the same extent as the Torrance tests.
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The definition of creativity is not universal as it differs depending on the parties involved or the discipline under consideration. However, the creative process usually involves idea generation, analysis of the idea, and practical application of the idea. The most valid test for creativity measurement is the Torrance test which deals with both nonverbal and verbal parameters.
Torrance, P. (1995). Insights about creativity. Educational psychology review, 7 (4): 313.
Webb, T. & Tolan, E. (2005). Guiding a gifted Child. Scottsdale: Gifted psychology publishers.
Pirto, J. (2008). Understanding those who create. Creative behavior journal 2 (33): 21.
Clark, B. (2007). Growing up gifted. New York: Prentice hall.