It’s all the rage nowadays, this thing called creativity. Along with innovation, it rides high in the list of character traits most desired by employers. Thus as students, and as eventual cog-turners in the global economy, it would do one a great deal of good to understand how to think (and subsequently apply) creatively.
It might be believed that creative ideas appear like ‘bolts from the blue’, or flashes of brilliance or genius that provide an uncommon alternative. However, creative thought stems from a far deeper source than random environmental stimuli. I am inclined to agree with the writing of Graham Wallas, who in The Art of Thought charted the stages of the creative process. Creativity then does not occur in a flash, without prior preparation. He asserts that creativity then follows the process of
Preparation → Incubation → Illumination → Verification
where the flash of brilliance is but the ‘illumination’ stage of entire four step process. As we begin to assess a problem, we begin the stage of preparation. If we then fail to solve the problem at hand, we put it aside for a while, and this is where the process of incubation occurs in the subconscious of our minds, outside our own awareness.
In the recesses of our subconscious, our brain continues to delve into the problem, drawing upon our own life experiences and emotions to open different avenues to address the problem. We must not underestimate the power of our subconscious minds, for it is in which we know more than we can remember. Illumination occurs then, upon certain stimuli, bringing the proposed solution from the depths of our subconscious to our conscious reality.
Creativity can be defined in many different ways because it is such a broad term. “It has been known to some as the step-child of psychology. This statement characterizes the historically difficult relationship existent between gifted individuals and society and, between science and creativity research” (Bergquist, “A Comparative View of Creativity Theories”, p.1). ...
I had the personal experience of witnessing preparation, incubation and illumination at work in my head during one of Margaret Chan’s CT classes. We were asked to determine the creativity of a seemingly odd banana holder, and the class argued for and against its creativity on the premise of value (De Bono, 1997).
I grappled for a possible use for the phallic looking object aside from its most obvious purpose, and for the life of me, could not find one. I put it aside for a while, resigned to not collecting class participation points for the particular exercise. It was after a while of listening to the ongoing debate, that the inspiration hit me, the yellow plastic case (with the holes on its surface), could very well be a banana grater or puree maker! Upon afterthought of my own startling revelation, I realized that the idea perhaps stemmed from my childhood experiences with play-dough and its associated peripherals used for molding and sculpting the putty. Very much akin to how I used to make ‘play-dough spaghetti’ the banana holder could be applied for the same purpose, albeit with bananas.
How do we then verify our creative thought? James Averill and Carol Thomas-Knowles write in Emotional Creativity that the criteria for evaluating a response as creative can be divided as such – novelty, effectiveness and authenticity (originality).
An idea’s novelty is a measure of how unusual, new or different it is (however it is justified that not all creative ideas are novel).
Effectiveness is then a measure of an idea’s potential benefit or value, similar to de Bono’s defining traits of value in creativity. The Authenticity of an idea is a reflection of an individual’s beliefs about the world. I believe the banana puree maker was unusual enough, and accordingly beneficial to all the banana milkshake makers of the world. It was also a description “according to [my] own criterion of what looks true…” quoting Arnheim’s definition of Authenticity (Arnheim, 1966).
Creative Writing - World War I: Letter Home Dear Mum, How are you getting on? I hope that Dad's cold is better. Send my best wishes to everyone! I am writing to you from the barracks of our regiment. My training is going well; I have many good friends here, and although the training I have been getting is necessary, I cannot wait to finish it, and get out to the Front, because the chances are that ...
It must be noted that there is but one universal agreement on judging creativity- that it is subjective. What may then tickle you may not necessarily do the same for me, and I might not appreciate the cubism in Picasso’s ‘Le Guitariste’ as much as I do the surrealism in Rene Margritte’s ‘The Son of Man’.
Oh how the world cries for creativity. I am not fearful of being unable to find my creative self, for through my experiences with the banana holder I know my potential for creativity, and at other times, all I may really have to do is stop and wait a moment, while the cumulative experiences of my life save the day.