Defining Creativity

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There is a lot of talk about creativity these days, and rightfully so. It’s critical in today’s competitive environment. But, as with any popular topic, there are many offering advice, and it can be difficult to determine what point-of-view to believe. I’m an advocate for creating your own definitions first, not relying solely on Google and others.

In graduate school, I took a course taught by Drew Boyd on Systematic Inventive Thinking, a process for ideation and invention. He started the course with an assignment asking us to define innovation. Not to regurgitate the definition from Webster or Wikipedia, but for us to define it on our own.

This process unlocked and opened mental doors for me. As a millennial, I admit that I rely on Google too often. This exercise showed me how to expand my own thinking on a subject without relying on others to do it for me.

We must develop our individual creativity and voice in a world full of conformity.

Words such as Innovation and Creativity can be elusive and often ambiguous in their meaning. This process allows me to grow more in my understanding, giving a single word much more dimension and depth.

I’d like to do the same thing here with creativity. First, a look at the dictionary’s definition, where you’ll see the limitation of its meaning.

Cre-a-tiv-i-ty: noun (though the process is a verb) – The use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Next, I’m using a few questions to arrive at a new, deeper definition that I can carry with me.

Creativity is play with constraints. It’s about getting out there, talking with (and LISTENING to) people, getting new perspectives and insights. But it’s also about taking breaks from work and enjoying life, allowing compartments of your mind to open up to new ideas; to subconsciously digest and synthesis all the data and dialogue you’ve had around a problem you’re trying to solve.

Lack of process, fear, and culture. Many think creative ideas come from the sky. It’s simply not true. Good, regular creativity requires discipline and process, starting with something as simple as an idea journal all the way to a standardize organizational process for creative problem solving.  Fear and culture: both can keep people from sharing their ideas and going after them.

True creativity requires you to take risk. Sometimes the biggest risk is felt when you need to externalize your ideas, make them real, and hear what others have to say. Learning is risk taking. Success is risk taking. It’s a risk to be average, to be safe, and it’s a risk to not take risks these days.

Tell me, where do you agree and disagree? Please share in the comments. The dialogue is where growth comes from.


Will Krieger