Types of Creativity – The 4C Model by James Kauffman

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Types of Creativity – The 4C Model by James Kauffman

Traditionally, creativity was thought to be of two types:
1.    Eminent Creativity (Creativity of those who achieved eminence in their chosen creative field.)
2.    Everyday Creativity (Creativity that everyone has – and which manifests itself in our daily acts.)

In 2001, James C. Kauffman (of the Sylvia Plath Effect fame), suggested two more and placed them between the above two, to present the 4C Model of Creativity.

Let us take a quick look at this model.

The “little-c” of Creativity (or Everyday Creativity)

Most of us have some measure of creativity in us. Let us look at some everyday examples of creativity. Every once in a while do you come up with your own recipe for a dish? When you need to tie something up, and there’s no string available, do you look around to find something that’d suit your purpose with a little modification? Well, you are being creative in the little-c way and exhibiting what’s called the Everyday Creativity.

The “mini-c” of Creativity (suggested by Kauffman)

Now let us say that you go a step ahead and you decide to be deliberately and meaningfully creative. So, you write poetry, short stories for kids, make paintings for the walls of your house, design and stitch a dress for yourself…and people around you begin to say, “Oh, look at her. She’s so creative!” then you exhibited what’s called the Mini-C kind of creativity.

The “Pro-C” of Creativity (suggested by Kauffman)

The next level of creativity manifests itself when your creations begin to generate funds for you. In other words, you begin to earn your living through your creative pursuits. For instance, you become a travel photographer, a graphic designer, or an interior designer. Now you exhibit the Pro-C creativity.

The “BIG-C” of Creativity (or Eminent Creativity)

The final level of creativity is called Eminent Creativity, which means that your creativity has made a lasting impression on your specific field of creativity. If your creativity finds you a place in history, you’ve exhibited the BIG-C creativity. The BIG C creativity is evident in the works of the greats such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Mark Twain, Shakespeare, the Beatles, Einstein, and so on.

The Instructional Designer and the 4C Model of Creativity

An instructional designer should be creative at the “Pro-C” level. When I first talk to the prospective Instructional Design and Content Development (IDCD) Certificate course participants, they sometimes tell me that they don’t think that they are creative . If I look at this model, I would place them at the “little-c” level of creativity, because I am yet to come across people who have absolutely no ability for everyday creativity. Perhaps they haven’t received an acknowledgement of their creativity from others, and this why they’ve made themselves believe that they aren’t creative at all. If you too have begun to believe that you are not creative and hence instructional design is not for you, you should think again.

Instructional Design is a discipline that helps you become “deliberately and meaningfully” creative (thus, it takes you to the “Mini-c” level,) and given the unfulfilled demand for good instructional designers, it also propels you towards the “Pro-c” level of creativity, when you begin to use your abilities as a professional.


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