Understanding Personal Creativity
Creativity is a tough concept to nail down. There is not a foolproof formula to be creative, or to become the most creative. The fact that creativity is an elusive concept is part of what defines it, and makes it an attribute worth developing. Though there is not a step-by-step set of instructions for being, or becoming, creative, it is a quality that can be nurtured and developed. Moreover, it is a quality worth developing for anyone at any level of life. It is beneficial for all types of careers and hobbies.
There is no definitive, universal definition of creativity. It is a combination of all aspects of mental activity that interact in different ways to solve problems and generate ideas. Many definitions of creativity center around the idea of something new. Creativity is identified by the unusual and the unique, over the old and familiar. The utility in creativity is in finding new solutions, generating new ideas, and executing those solutions and ideas in ways that are different from what is expected or repeated.
For this reason, creativity is of great value to individuals, groups, and organizations. Not everyone recognizes the importance and value of creativity, but all aspects of life can benefit from it. This seems obvious in creative or artistic pursuits, such as art, music, writing, film, and design. More and more, creativity is being recognized as a vital attribute for business. In a competitive environment, creative solutions and ideas can be the difference between success and failure. Students of all ages can find greater success by developing their creativity. All careers have opportunities to be creative, and to develop something new.
The term personal creativity is most often discussed in connection with business. The concept of personal creativity is based on developing the mental and emotional tools that can enhance the potential of one's thinking. This has the potential, then, to benefit all members on the individual's team and the organization, as a whole. Self-improvement is a vital part of being a fulfilled and an actualized person. Creativity is a broad concept that reaches further than ordinary paths of thought and problem solving. In the same way, personal creativity is bigger than the individual, and it has far more applications than just success in business.
To break creativity down into smaller concepts that can be more easily understood, creativity can be thought of, in part, as merely thinking. Thinking differently can be explored through linear and nonlinear thinking.
Linear thinking is common. Most aspects of life are achieved through linear thinking. It is a vital tool for completing most tasks in life in the most efficient way possible. A number of tasks are best tackled in a step-by-step fashion. Linear thinking does not preclude creativity. Linear thinkers can develop their creativity, as well. Still, personal creativity is going to be in effect most often when one moves from linear to nonlinear thinking from time to time.
This is not to dismiss linear thinking or even to downplay it as somehow inferior. Logic and reason are powerful tools and rely very heavily upon linear thought. Leaps, discoveries, and invention can come for an exploration of linear thought, which inspires something unexpected. The rub is that linear thinking, by itself, is more likely to lead to predictable results and repeated solutions. While that might serve in many situations, it can be limiting. It can block out other options and other possibilities. If one moves from idea A to idea B to idea C, and so on, the path is likely to be an expected one, and the conclusion can be reached easily by most people. This probably means it will result in a solution or idea that has already been tried or reached in the past. This is where the need for something new requires creative thought and the ability to access one's personal creativity.
For many people, nonlinear thinking may seem chaotic and uncomfortable. Others transition to this way of thinking more easily. In some ways, personal creativity is dealing with making patterns out of the chaotic. This is often described as out-of-the-box thinking. The assumption is that "the box" represents common and familiar ideas. It is the encapsulation of what has been tried and the methods and procedures that lead to predictable results. These are often safer and more comfortable results. Out-of-the-box thinking implies that one finds a way to leave those things behind to find something uncommon and innovative. Personal creativity is the combination of elements within a person that allows them to reach these results found "outside the box."
So, if one begins with the data the linear thinker does, and looks at it from a nonlinear perspective, the starting point may be the same, but creative thinking will likely lead to different results. Idea A may again lead to Point B and possibly even point C too, but somewhere along this chain the thinker takes an unexpected path. Idea D may be skipped or excluded. After Point C, nonlinear thinking may lead to a connection that does not even logically fit the pattern at first glance. This new path may have no set mental stepping stones to jump easily to the next. The thinker who has embraced the nonlinear and accessed his or her personal creativity is in unexplored territory and has to cut a new path.
Personal creativity involves risk. Going somewhere besides Point D, when Point D is the obvious next step, is a leap of faith. Creative people are putting themselves on the line and might fail. That failure might be seen as a mistake for having broken away from the expected path with expected results. The truth is that any path holds risk. Staying with the safe path can result in being left behind by others who were willing to take the risk to try something different. In this sense, the risk that is involved in exploring creative, nonlinear possibilities is a part of what leads to the reward of discovering something new, or finding a deeper, more creative solution.
The result of creative pursuits can be finding unexpected connections out of what first seemed to be chaos. This is a good description of the process of thinking that leads to new inventions or new discoveries. What seemed like random pieces can be seen as an unexpected pattern to the creative mind.
These connections, which were not readily apparent at first, can create new themes or threads through a wide range of ideas thought to be unrelated. For the artist, this can be finding beauty in a work of art that was once just color on the pallet, or even pieces of found objects that others just saw as junk.
For a writer, personal creativity serves to produce better work and greater connection to the reader. This is true for all types of writing, from fiction, to nonfiction, and even to technical writing. Fiction writers can access personal creativity to take a story and characters in surprising, but believable, directions. By thinking outside the box of simple cause and effect along a predictable timeline, the writer can discover character motivations and story possibilities that may not have been obvious in the original outline for the story. This opens exciting new possibilities, and breaks the story out of the trap of being formulaic.
Nonfiction might seem like a less obvious form of writing to benefit from creative flair, but that is a short-sighted assumption. Nonfiction writing seeks to inform or persuade the reader. To that purpose, finding new ways to present information, or to capture the reader's interest, is of clear benefit to the goals of nonfiction writing. Nonfiction writing has great potential to effect change and to promote ideas, so creative approaches are vital to inspiring those reactions from readers, in big and small ways. Personal creativity serves the writer, the reader, and all agents with a stake in the writing or the subject.
Technical writing might seem like a stretch for an avenue to explore creativity, but the fact that the category elicits that response is the very reason creativity has the potential to serve the writing in the same way that it serves the fiction and nonfiction writer. While technical writing has clear demands for accuracy and complexity, this does not eliminate the possibility of creativity. It does make the application of creativity more challenging. Technical fields utilize creativity in invention, discovery, development, and design. The technical writer can continue this with the explanation of that work. Readers can be inspired to buy, invest, test, or pass on the very ideas the technical writer is seeking to communicate, if the ideas are presented in a way that captures that reader.
Students, from the youngest, to the most advanced degrees, thrive in creative environments. Play is often associated with younger learners, but in various forms, play can be invaluable for breaking students out of ruts and advancing projects in new and exciting ways.
Students at all levels are involved in a complex system of learning, teaching, and interaction. This includes with the material, the formal instructors, fellow students, and others outside of the specific learning environment. Media and social activities also play into the learning process in ways that are difficult to quantify. As technology advances and expands, these interactions become more varied and complicated. This can become the very chaos that makes some people nervous about creative endeavors and thinking. It also opens greater and greater potential for the use of personal creativity.
This dynamic is true for teaching and learning, wherein the student is not officially or traditionally seen as a student. In our present world, with its global reach, virtually all individuals are thrust into the role of learner or student in some way. In the same way, all people are placed in situations where creativity could enhance their experience, or where personal creativity could prove to be of a great benefit or advantage.
Outside of formal school settings, personal development and training is an ongoing and vital component in many businesses and most career paths. Even self-employed individuals have to seek out ways to train themselves in new formats, techniques, and systems. Creativity can serve to take these in new directions, or invent new forms of these that serve the situation or industry better.
Instructors, formal and informal, may find better results and more interesting developments from setting up opportunities for students, learners, and trainees to utilize their personal creativity. While getting across basic concepts, allowing, or even forcing, students to produce creative solutions will cause learning to connect to more parts of the brain and will access more long-term potential in both retention and future application.
From the student's perspective, whether one is a student by choice, accident, or necessity, finding ways to employ personal creativity can enhance tasks. The work of learning and studying can become more rewarding personally and professionally. Tasks can become more enjoyable and interesting. Effort will be easier to elicit, and students can sustain their interaction with material longer -- and with more meaning -- while being creative.
This leads to another important consideration when discussing personal creativity. The basis of justifying personal creativity is often couched in utility and benefit to individuals, groups, or projects. It is pursued by business leaders looking for an edge on the competition, or artists who see creativity as the core of their work. This is all vital to the human experience, but overlooks some more basic, human-level needs that personal creativity fulfills. There are benefits to allowing yourself to be creative that may not be measured by bottom line results or production of an end product, either professional or artistic. Creativity, in a sense, can be its own reward as an aspect of being a complete and fulfilled person.
This more ethereal benefit of incorporating creativity in one's life should not be perceived as a meaningless expression of feelings. Personal creativity can serve to establish connections within a person's own mind, emotions, and personality. It can establish connections and interactions between left and right brain, unlocking unknown potential for the individual. Employing creativity in one's life, even in one area, or by a way that seems unimportant to one's primary job or course of activity, can result in finding a new interest or awakening unknown talent for the individual.
Personal fulfillment, professionally and personally, will create greater happiness and satisfaction in one's life. The reverse brings down the quality of work and life. Denying creative outlets can stifle both personal and professional growth. Repeating the same tasks, the same way, with no creative stimulation, is not likely to have positive results. Likewise, seeking to meet the expectations of others in the most predictable or safest manner possible is not a good way to encourage growth, innovation, or happiness.
Creativity in any form has the potential to enhance many areas of life, just by the act of being creative. It trains one's mind and body to be ready to be creative in the future, in other circumstances. As with any skill that is learned or practiced, one becomes more adept at it, and the potential increases with the exercise of the skills.
There is no doubt that some individuals are more creative than others. For some, creativity comes naturally, and in an elite few, it achieves genius levels of innovation and creation. That should not discourage anyone from utilizing and developing his or her own personal creativity. In that sense, it is very much a project of personal development. Though there are tests and measures of creativity, there is not a set, disqualifying line to say that any person lacks the potential to be more creative, or that it is not worth the effort to maximize one's personal creative potential.
Since it does not have one, clear definition, it should not be seen as having clear, stratified levels to compare one person to other creative geniuses, to the point of being discouraged.
Use the tools to bring out personal creativity, and to find new ways to utilize it in all aspects of life -- personally, professionally, or otherwise. Finding new ways to look at and solve problems makes life better for everyone. Discovering new ideas can change the world, and creativity can be the key to finding those new ideas within the individual. Personal creativity is a powerful set of tools that can be unlocked in fascinating and exciting ways to face the challenges in business, in school, in the world, and within one's own unique personality. Begin the creative journey now and see all the potential it holds.
- Idea Generating Tools for Creative Thinking
- The Role of Lateral Thinking in Understanding Creative Thinking
- Approaches of Empathizing, Dimensional Thinking, and Modeling in Creative Thinking
- Obstacles with Defining and Measuring Creativity and Creative Thinking
- Three Concepts for Sustaining Long-Term Creative Work