How do we define creativity?

For some reason, creativity scares a lot of people. There’s an unspoken notion among some that to be creative you need to have a little bit of genius about your brains. Sure, some of us might be a bit better at it than others but creativity is actually something we alldo. Several times a day. Every day.

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What is creativity?

It’s kind of tricky to find a catchy, one-line definition of creativity but, thankfully, quite a few experts on how the brain and the creative process works have had a good go at it for us.

If you do a ‘lazy search’ for the word ‘creativity’, you’ll likely get a Wikipedia definition that says something like:

A phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a literary work, or a painting).

What makes something a ‘creative activity’?

Of course this is a very broad, high-level definition of creativity.

We at Triggers think there’s essentially two main ingredients that you need for an activity to be creative, and they’re loosely based on Nancy C. Andreasen’s version that’s been quoted a lot since it was first published in the 70s. Andreasen is a qualified neuroscientist and psychiatrist and in herversion she actually lists three ingredients:

1. It has to to be original

This one both makes a lot of sense and can be intimidating and inspiring at the same time. If you’re trying to create something new, it follows that borrowing large chunks of stuff somebody else already created is probably not the best idea.

On the other hand, creating something new doesn’t mean you have to design the successor to the wheel (more about wheels later!). It just means that whatever you create should be original to you, the creator, or to the context in which that creativity is taking place.

2. It has to have value

You can probably take this second ingredient with a pinch of salt (pun fully intended!). The idea of whether something has value or not is so subjective that it doesn’t feel right to call it a ‘requirement’ of creativity. So we won’t dwell on this one too much.

If you’re interested in knowing more about this though, you can read Andreasen’s book. As for us, we think that the only person that truly needs to value the outcome of a creative activity is the person taking part in it.

3. It has to lead to ‘something’

By ‘something’, we mean some sort of product. And by ‘product’ we don’t necessarily mean something you can touch and feel. A product doesn’t have to be something tangible but the point purpose of a creative activity is creation.

Ideas, answers to tricky questions, plans — these are all ‘products’ of creativity, too.

How does creativity happen?

This has been a very swift, high-level, attempt to define creativity but, of course, it’s a lot more complex than that . In future posts, we’ll go into more detail and look at the process that takes place in our brains when we’re being creative.

In summary: when engaging in any creative activity, be original and make sure there is an end product to whatever you do. The rest, as you’ll discover with practice and experience, will take care of itself!