Whence Creativity

Definitions of creativity abound and are at times significantly divergent. We will adopt a supplemented version of Margaret Boden’s definition as follows:

A creative process or product is one that is original, valuable or useful, and is non-obvious (surprising). [Boden, 2004]

Boden states that the above definition can be contextualized and applied either to the individual involved in the creative act (p-creativity) or more broadly in a public, historical context she defines as h-creativity. In other words, a creative output may be original and valuable to the creator, but in a broader historical context the output may be less valuable.

The second category, h-creativity represents the highest level of creativity in many classifications because, essentially, the requirements are much more strenuous. For an idea or artifact to have cultural implications requires not only mastery of the field of knowledge in which the idea or artifact is being created, but a mastery of process as well as, some argue [citation], acute societal awareness.

Rather than occupy ourselves with creating great works of art, our goal is to arrive at a process of personal exploration where we expand our boundaries and conceptual spaces, and strive to become comfortable taking risks. To facilitate this we must understand both the ideas and actions associated with creative processes.

Creativity Keyword Pairs

Below are a number of words in noun-verb pairs. They are pulled from the creative studies literature and are here meant to stimulate thought regarding art and artifact, process and product. It may be non-obvious that nouns and verbs we regularly use are not directly associated with their opposite/compliment. Some may be more useful than others. As we move toward implementing creative strategies (in the following section) we need to conceptually replace stasis with action.

Context: Contextualize

Exploration: Explore

Flexibility: Flex

Imagination: Imagine

Innovation: Innovate

Mastery: Master

Openness: Open

Selection: Select

Transformation: Transform

Going Further: Higher level concepts/actions

Truly creative and masterful works of art and music (and inventions, for that matter) demonstrate, beyond the above, significant complexity, elegance and depth. [Cite: Bob Morris] This manifests in different ways, but can often be discovered through analysis where it is revealed that there are hidden strings in the work that bind one element to another. These are rarely obvious, and thus demonstrate one manifestation of the requirements for true creativity, surprise.

Further, what we do not see in the above is any notion of “correctness”. Right and wrong and associated patterns of black and white thinking are anathema to the creative process where it is not unusual to actually begin with a nonsensical or “bad” idea in order to arrive at something unusual or new. This is difficult to accept, especially in a technical context where proper engineering plays a significant role in the production of the idea or artifact. To be successful we must separate the two processes, the creative conceptualization and the implementation. This is not to say implementations themselves cannot be creative, but that they must also be “correct” in that they “work” to realize the idea or artifact. When the artifact is realized, the implementation is “correct” and the elegance of the implementation reinforces the depth of the creative process.

We will actively explore certain noun-verb pairs and their associated concepts and actions in the different Modules in Section 2.