The Creative Lounge – What is Creativity?

Icon for The Creative Lounge - Discussing Creativity, Creative Thinking, and Tips on Creativity.


Book your Cabana and get yourself a drink. Then settle down in the Creative Lounge.

Okay. We begin our Quest for Creativity, by defining Creativity. You could argue that we can’t begin by defining creativity in a standard non-creative way – and I accept the argument as reasonable.

Let us create a definition of Creativity.

Let us begin with Total Recall (Schema theory…what else?)

What words crop up around creativity?

  • Innovation,
  • creation,
  • solution,
  • invention,
  • new,
  • novelty,
  • surprising,
  • uncharted frontiers,
  • unexpectedness!

How are any of the above brought about?
Through our ability to think and visualize – primarily due the unique human ability called abstract thinking.

And when do we bother with the above terms?
When these terms are related to something useful, something that gives some value to someone…when they solve a problem.

Here’s the definition that I came up with about 5 years ago, and it has helped me through a lot of sticky situations (some involving instructional designers and graphic designers.)

“Creativity is border-less thinking, clipped in the right places to fit the problem template, so that the result is an effective and efficient solution.” – SRA

(Read “The Paradox of Creativity Management“, the Wavelength article published June 2005, which first presented this definition of Creativity.)

Note that you can’t impose borders on your thinking beforehand. You’ve got to go quirky, think out of the box, come up with stuff that people WILL call crazy – and then you need to clip out all that doesn’t fit in. Thus, creativity should solve a useful purpose of providing a solution to a problem and generating a positive value.

None of us is ever creative without a problem to work with. Even an artist painting a canvas has a problem to solve, and this problem could have a lot of dimensions. He could be attempting to solve some technical problems:

  • Determining how to create a specific effect through colors (Realism)
  • Creating a visual likeness to a subject through a combined effect of colors (Expressionism)

Or even conceptual problems such as:

  • How to present an island in a unique way?
  • How to combine human with the divine through a visual element?

Creativity always applies itself to problem solving…and so our quest for creativity should begin by determining how to identify and outline the problem.