Definition of Creativity

What is Creativity?

Creativity is the process or really processes by which novelty arises.

Creativity Models Compared

“‘Creativity’ is the universal of universals characterizing ultimate matter of fact.  It is that ultimate principle by which the many, which are the universe disjunctively, become the one actual occasion, which is the universe conjunctively.  It lies in the nature of things that the many enter into complex unity.” (A. N. Whitehead).

Creativity is first and foremost the continuous and ongoing quality of reality to produce novelty. It is all around us and in us. It is not some thing that some of us possess. Nor is it an internal human quality that can be found in a brain region. Rather our creative processes are ones that join and ultimately “surf” realities ongoing creative processes.

Rather than conceptualizing creativity as a thing or an internal property, a better analogy is to see creativity, like flight, as an emergent process that is the outcome of relations that must be cultivated across many unlike things…

  • Creativity is a process that happens at an emergent dynamic systems level.
  • Creativity has no single locus of cause or development.
  • Creative outcomes are co-created by the contexts in which they unfold.
  • The creative process to realize a creative outcome is via a networked assemblage that is required to catalyze, produce and reproduce a lasting transformation.
  • The impact of any given cause is contingent upon the state of the system as a whole.
  • The roles played by causal factors in creativity cannot be adequately understood as falling into two kinds, one exclusively played by human capacities and the other played by learning.
  • The notion of psychological or mental creativity (ideation) is of no explanatory value.
  • Creativity involves a change in the dynamic system as a whole, and not only a change in an individual idea.

Creativity has a deeply problematic history in the west being that it was something reserved for a god. This has lead to a series of compounding problems in how creativity is both understood and practiced. To engage successfully with creative processes we need to critically confront and move beyond this history – which is no easy task. Here is a good overview of this issue.

Read More About Creativity

See: Difference, Change, Emergence, Feedforward, Exaptation, God Model

For more, navigate to our complete list of articles on anti-creative practices in Innovation.

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

Delivered Every Friday