“I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important
than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, whereas imagination
embraces the entire world, stimulating progress,
giving birth to evolution.”
Albert Einstein (1931)
An evolutionary view of creativity acknowledges that everything we do affects our personal well-being, the well-being of others, the well-being of future generations, as well as the environment. The time is ripe for creativity to be embodied as a core competency by every person on this planet. While creativity, the word, shows up in daily conversations, there is evidence of lack of clarity or consensus around the definition. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines creativity as: “the ability to create.” Compared to the robust definitions for imagination, invention, and insight, all common synonyms for creativity, “the ability of create” fails to inform or inspire. This writer believes crafting a new definition of creativity has the potential for increasing broad awareness and ownership of personal creativity. It is important for people of all ages to understand creativity is a natural function and that every human brain is creative (Carson, 2010).
“Creative arts meet soul needs, shift consciousness and both facilitate and enhance learning” (Camden-Pratt, 2008, p. 8). Arts are very important to our view of creativity, and all art certainly makes use of creativity, however, not all creativity is art. Confusing creativity with drawing ability or special talents, limits self-identification with creativity. Viewing creativity as a process of thinking, problem solving, and imagining possibilities rather than a product to be evaluated may encourage more engagement. Ideas, adaptations and inventions contribute to our evolution as a species. By expanding the base of people who understand themselves as being creative, we open a vast storehouse of unused creative potential to be used in service of the challenges facing our world. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) affirms: “…for better or worse, our future is now closely tied to human creativity” (p. 6).
Creativity, as a construct, is an aspect of thinking (thought generation through application of imagination). In The Art of Thought, Wallas (1926) describes a four-stage model for the development of ideas which creativity scholars continue to cite as the key elements of creative process: (1) preparation; (2) incubation; (3) illumination; and (4) verification. Mastery in creative thinking and application comes from learning and practice. Just as people are not born with all the knowledge it takes to win a Nobel Prize, or win a gold medal in the Olympics, developing creativity involves accumulation of knowledge, years of practice, exploring nagging questions, and making many mistakes. Evolutionary creativity also calls us to be “present, aware, open to possibility, and taking a risk. It matters what we are doing” (Ockuly & Richards, IN PRESS).
Creativity is a unique human impulse which brings meaning and joy to our lives. It is also a process triggered by inspiration which may or may not grow wings. A process view of creativity puts the focus on activity (both mental and physical, conscious and unconscious) which is undertaken from the time an idea or insight comes into our awareness. Creativity can produce a quick answer, evolve over decades, or involve a lifetime of study, trial and error, and experimentation. When we to do things in original ways we are expressing our everyday creativity (Richards, 2007). The urge to express is biological, and research supports the concept of creative expression as a universally recognized human characteristic fueled by imagination (Dacey & Lennon, 1998; London, 1989; Rudowicz, 2003). Researchers Ockuly & Richards (2012) investigated contemporary views of creativity by asking survey participants recruited using social media: “How do you define creativity?” 97% said something about creative process. The words: ideas, expression, and imagination came up most often. Many definitions submitted from study participants showed an evolutionary creativity focus. A few samples follow:
“Creativity means absolute freedom. It is all about letting your mind swim in the oceans of what is possible.” Participant #95
“Creativity is making mistakes and finding something beautiful in them. It’s not about inventing the next gadget, or being the next fashion guru, but about seeing yourself as a leader of your imagination.” Participant #55
“Creativity is the fusion of imagination and spirit.” Participant #69
With heightened consciousness, comes awareness of connection. May (1975) states: “By whatever name one calls it, genuine creativity is characterized by an intensity of awareness, a heightened consciousness,” (p. 44). By claiming our creativity, we are empowered as co-creators to participate in creating positive change. Laszlo (2012) reminds us: “Evolutionary leadership is a means for each one of us to understand that we have a role to play in the creation of a better world…” What role will YOU play in the creation of a better world? It is time to imagine positively inspiring solutions for the wicked problems (Kolko, 2013) facing this planet.
My definition for creativity is “imagining possibilities and making them real.” The advantages of this definition are: it is short, easy to remember, it is about process, mentions imagination, and evokes action.
In ten words or less, what creativity definition do you suggest?
Here is a visual quote collection power point to share new evolutionary views of creativity. Your comments are greatly appreciated! Enjoy: Evolutionary Creativity
Creativity Prompt: I invite you to imagine exciting waves of positive change sweeping over the planet. ”See” – in your mind’s eye – wonderful solutions to humanities most vexing problems. What change would make you happiest right now? Does it make the world safer or more friendly to every living thing? If so, imagine the world with this change in place. Our imaginations are like muscles. They need exercise to stay strong. Many people misuse imagination by worrying. Instead of the worst, imagine the best!
Here’s a great video about imagining. In the beginning you’ll see what happens when people don’t practice imagining! But stick with it. Once it gets going, you’ll get inspired: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1eIYZjzO7A
Sending you blessings and joy!
Marta Davidovich Ockuly
P.S. If you’d like the list of References used in this story, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it out to you.