Four Ways of Understanding Creativity

Updated: Jan 4


Over the past few blogs, we discussed the definition of creativity and the benefits of being creative. Together, we discovered that everyone is creative. But, the lingering question remains - how do we instill creativity in our everyday lives?


Reflect on this for a moment - What is your daily routine or process? When your alarm goes off do you head to the bathroom and brush your teeth? Head to the kitchen for that coveted cup of coffee? Do you read the newspaper? Jump in the shower? Get the kids up and ready for school? Walk the dog? Or just head to work? What do you need in order to accomplish a task at work or at home? Are these tasks centered around a specific goal in your life?



Most of us have some kind of routine or process we use to get through the day - although it may vary depending on if it is a workday or a day off or whether you are at home, work, or playing, We might not even be completely aware of the routine if we have been following it a long time, or if we sort of “fell into it”. But check out Micheal Phelps’, 28-time Olympic medalist in swimming, strict routine:

  • 6 AM ~ Wake Up

  • 7 AM-9 AM ~ Swim

  • 9 AM-10 AM ~ Weightlift

  • 10 AM-12 PM ~ Eat

  • 12 PM-1 PM ~ Nap

  • 4-6 PM ~ Swim

  • 6 PM-8 PM ~ Dinner

  • 8 PM-10 PM ~ Spend time with family

  • 10 PM ~ Bedtime

Having a routine may seem boring and uncreative, but remember our definition - creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. As one of the most successful and decorated Olympians of all time, Micheal Phelps definitely brought something new into being. And he has a deliberate routine - a process - specifically designed to help him reach a very difficult goal. He makes sure that every ingredient for building a champion is addressed in his recipe for success.

We don’t have to be Olympians to benefit from tapping into a process to produce something new and valuable. But are there other things that affect our ability to create?

Let’s dive into the details!

Mel Rhodes, in 1961, first described how complex creativity is by looking at it from four angles: person, process, product, and environment.



  • Creative person - What are the qualities of a creative person? What traits are associated with creativity? Gary Davis analyzed studies going back to 1961 and found 16 categories used to describe a creative person, including Original, Independent, High Energy, Curious, Sense of humor, open-mindedness, Perceptive, and Thorough. Of course, no one creative person has every trait. Also, people need to have a great amount of training and experience in their field to make a significant creative contribution. Simone Biles, another highly successful Olympian and world champion in women’s gymnastics, was already a master of existing techniques when she introduced a unique element to her sport that featured a double layout ending with a surprising and difficult half-twist. Now known as the “Biles”, it is officially listed in the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Code of Points--along with three other innovative moves!



  • Creative process - What are the steps we take when we want to achieve a difficult goal? What stages do we go through when we are thinking creatively? What do we do when we run into an obstacle? One of the hallmarks of a creative process is that it supports the generation of many ideas. This is important because often the first ideas we come up with are things other people have already thought of. Truly unique ideas are rare! By taking the time to come up with many, many ideas we increase the opportunity for original ideas to arise. Also, by staying open to novelty we can learn to find the value in things that are unfamiliar, rather than rejecting them right away. Consider David Armbruster, the coach who introduced his swimmers to the dolphin kick in the 1930s at a time when the frog kick was the standard. It was new and strange, but effective. In fact, mastery of this innovative technique helped Michael Phelps win medals.



  • Creative product - What is your creative idea? Can you describe it in detail? What might the polished version look like? And what problem does it solve? Consider again the innovative elements Simone Biles introduced to the sport of Women’s Artistic Gymnastics. They can easily be labeled creative products because they were more than stunning, new maneuvers. Their level of difficulty also made them very valuable in terms of producing high scores during competition. And we have to point out that one of the elements was specifically developed to solve a problem: how to put less stress on Simone’s injured leg.



  • Creative environment (press) - Will you schedule time to pursue your idea? Will you need to collaborate on this idea? Will you surround yourself with knowledgeable people who can challenge you to make your idea better, while also supporting you to be your best? Are you actively creating in an environment where your colleagues, society, or culture is supportive of imagination and innovation? In many ways, Micheal Phelps’s schedule shows how he designed a structured environment to support his growth. Simone Biles hired new coaches that gave her new strategies as well as emotional support. A creative environment includes supportive people, psychological safety, healthy debate--and playtime! For an example of athletes taking time for some fun, check out the 2016 Olympic Swim team as they collaborate to create a music video.



As we continue our discussion of creativity, we will examine each one of these angles, commonly known as the 4P’s. Together, we will analyze how to apply what we learn to our everyday lives and reach our creative potential.


At Curiosity 2 Create, we want to celebrate curiosity and creativity by providing a learning environment where creativity can thrive. We believe that by embracing the 4P’s one can become more confident and resilient!


References


Davis, G. A. (2004). Creativity is forever.(5th ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.


Ekvall, G. (1996). Organizational climate for creativity and innovation. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5(1), 105–123. https://doi.org/10.1080/13594329608414845


400 views4 comments

Recent Posts

See All